For the first time in 26 years there are no shells falling in Sri Lanka, no suicide bombings, no children dying, no Tamils dying, and no Sinhalese dying. The LTTE (Tamil Tigers) do not have a guerrilla force or bases. There are no lawless states under the control of a terrorist group. There are no two parties waging war. For the first time in 26 years genuine peace has dawned on Sri Lanka.
Let's not celebrate that yet. 21 million citizens of Sri Lanka enjoying peace and the end of a war which cost countless lives is irrelevant. What's important is that 200,000 - 228,000 Tamils are in refugee camps with no freedom of movement. And the Monsoon is fast approaching.
In recent days the plight of Sri Lanka's displaced. No, I'm not talking about ALL of Sri Lanka's displaced. Just the privileged few. Sri Lanka has over 600,000 displaced. Many still displaced since the 2004 Tsunami. 100,000 Muslims displaced, living in refugee camps since 1993. But who cares right?
What's important is "freedom of movement."
The Strategy Page which has profiled the Tigers for years is a military affairs website which often squashes rumours floating around during time of conflict. They carry a very contrasting view of this call to "open the camps."
LTTE members living outside Sri Lanka have reorganised themselves as victims, and used that to persuade host country officials to pressure Sri Lanka to ease up on efforts to find LTTE members still in Sri Lanka. This effort centers around getting all 250,000 Tamils in the north, immediately freed from the camps they were placed in after the LTTE combat forces were crushed there earlier this year. The LTTE is continuing to use NGOs to pressure the government to immediately shut down the detention camps, and let the LTTE terrorists go free. The government considers this insane and irresponsible, but some diplomats and officials from the U.S. and Britain have taken up the call to halt the screening for terrorists, and just let everyone go.On the video above, Brad Adams the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch insinuates that the reason these displaced are confined is because the Sri Lankan government is dishing out a form of "collective punishment." He went on to call it a "reprisal" against the entire Tamil community.
The government believes there are over 10,000 LTTE fighters and terrorists among the Tamils in those camps..
"In entire Tamil community," I know he didn't include the majority of Sri Lanka's four million Tamils living in peace, outside camps, with freedom of movement, and with the same rights as every other citizen, right? Surely Human Rights Watch didn't transform from an unaccountable rights group to an organisation capable of gathering the opinions of all Tamils on the island overnight?
The Al Jazeera correspondent didn't fail to join in, "the government is saying that they need to actually detain many of these refugees for security reasons to really screen for former Tamil Tigers. How legitimate a reason is that, or is that simple a ruse to actually detain more Tamils?"
Yes, it has finally come to a point that the disinformation campaign has led even news networks to think that Sri Lanka wants to punish a small percentage of it's Tamil population, not all 4 million, just some. And others feel that we Sri Lankans have some perverted fantasy which entails detaining Tamils.
What a bunch of ignorant morons!
It is irresponsible of Al Jazeera and Human Rights Watch to even allow such a sound byte to be floating through the air waves. I say irresponsible because after such a long conflict, such blatant lies do not help anyone reconcile and move on. It merely provides a tool for the Tamil Tiger diaspora to continue promoting hate.
I find it amusing that in all recent comments to the media Brad Adams has painted the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka (which, unlike HRW, is accountable to it's voters and bound by laws) as liars trying to fool the world to dish out collective punishment at a whopping cost to it's tax payers!
What are you smoking Brad? Pass that around!
"The government's untruthful statements and promises should not fool anybody anymore," Adams told AlJazeera.
Since July Sri Lanka has stressed that it needs 180 days to resettle the displaced. Mahinda Rajapaksa went on record in July 2009 saying that this is a goal he has placed on his administration. It is a tough task for a developing nation to de-mine the former conflict zone, rebuild infrastructure, provide social services, and screen for combatants all in 6 months. He maintained at the time it would be a tough task but they will push to meet those goals.
Time Magazine (13 July 2009)
What is your priority now?Rajapaksa told the Indian daily, The Hindu, that he could not send these people back to jungles or a minefield. As we speak reconstruction and demining is taking place in much of the former conflict zone.
Over 300,000 people are in the IDP [internally-displaced persons] camps. The whole area is mined. We must de-mine the whole area, give basic facilities, water, electricity, roads, resettle them.
What is your time frame?
We have a 180-day program. That is our plan. In 180 days, we want to settle most of these people.
What would you like to accomplish before the next presidential election [which could be held as early as November]?
At least 50% must be released. I would say 60%.
Is that a promise?
It's not a promise, it's a target.
The UN is also yet to provide Sri Lanka with a certificate of de-mining in some areas. Brad Adams, Asian Human Rights Sensei, appears to not know that unless the UN provides a clearance certificate after de-mining inspections are complete, no one can move back.
Wait! Here's the come back.
"Surely some people can be allowed to go live with friends and relatives?"
According to a government official I spoke to recently, out of 280,000 IDPs only 2000 "friends and relatives" offered them shelter.
Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU, Ravinatha Aryasinha recently tried to end the ignorance surrounding the situation in Sri Lanka,
Embassy of Sri Lanka - Brussels (2 October 2009 via MOD)
Responding to the comments made by panelists about the situation in the IDP camps Ambassador Aryasinha outlined the procedures that the government had presently undertaken to streamline the resettlement process. He said that around 1/6 of the displaced who were originally from the Jaffna district and the Eastern province had been sent back to these areas, while the displaced from the Mannar district are presently being resettled. Additionally advertisements have been placed, informing the public that they could host any relatives who might be in the Welfare Villages.So the next time you want Sri Lanka to open the camps, or grant freedom of movement prior to screening for members of the Tamil Tigers, just remember that you may well be contributing as a mouth piece for a terror movement which has invested heavily in rights groups and other spokesmen to free it's battle hardened fighters.
Refuting a suggestion that "demining has been used as a political tool to confine the IDPs to the camps", and that they "would be held indefinitely", the Ambassador showed on a map of the main population centers of the Northern Province with adjacent farm land that had been de-mined or ear marked for de-mining on a priority basis. He said GOSL had imported the most sophisticated technology for this purpose, which was evidence of its commitment to re-settle the people as fast as possible. The Ambassador also said he was shocked at the suggestion made by one MEP that the IDPs should be "allowed to go and take the risk of land mines", and remarked that GOSL had not rescued them from being held as human shields by the LTTE, to have them knowingly risk their lives due to left over LTTE mines.
He said the security concerns were not imagined, but very real, as it was well known that many LTTE cadres had come into the camps mingling with civilians, and GOSL didn't want them to go back and connect with hidden weapons and re-start terrorist acts. About 10,000 ex-LTTE cadres had already surrendered and many others had been identified on the basis of information. So far, out of approximately 290,000 people liberated from the LTTE, over 150,000 had been registered and 110,000 issued with ID cards. This would help gradually ensure freedom of movement.
Responding to comments that humanitarian agencies are not allowed into the camps, the Ambassador pointed out that there are 54 International agencies, INGOs and NGOs currently engaged in humanitarian work in the welfare villages. He said within the last week alone two high level UN officials visited these areas.
Sri Lanka will resettle these civilians when it is ready to do so. The delay isn't as sensational as "collective punishment," but more to do with national security and the well being of 21 million Sri Lankans on the island.
When the BBC interviewed six Tamil families, most said they wanted out. Which is expected. Who would want live in a refugee camp even for a day? The headline to the article was 'Sri Lanka refugees plead for freedom.' The BBC's Charles Haviland was given access to the camps and in his report he said, "there seemed to be a widespread assumption that as outsiders we could somehow send them home."
Rapidly built up for the Tamil refugee influx last spring, Menik Farm has pylons, banks, even cash machines - and thousands upon thousands of tents in the cleared arid lands west of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka.Banks, schools, and shops in camps till they are resettled? Some punishment, no?
I have no doubt that the displaced Tamils of the Wanni (former Tamil Tiger controlled territory) are the most privileged displaced in all of Sri Lanka! When the government boasts of the best conditions in the world. They want you to take a closer look at the condition in which Tamil refugees live in India, or the living conditions of the displaced in other parts of the world.
Due to the constant criticism of congestion, the Sri Lankan government decided to move pre-screened Tamil refugees from camps to temporary shelters closer to their home towns. Guess what? They were accused of 'false resettlements' and misleading the international community by yet another rights group, Amnesty International.
Frankly, rights groups I once used to admire and support turned out to be a huge farce when the war came home. Human Rights Watch must lose the cold war mentality where it feels false allegations and a barrage of constant criticism will improve human rights conditions in the developing world. Today, after years of war, destruction, and death we know that isolation, non-constructive criticism, and sanctions have achieved nothing.