09/29/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Stop the lies about Tamil refugees, send them home, Anglican bishop says

by Melani Manel Perera
Duleep de Chickrea slams the lack of “co-ordination amongst State authorities”. He wants the government to “demonstrate transparency in its management of the crisis”. The situation in refugee camps is getting worse. A “responsible action with speed” is needed because the rainy season is not too far off.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Colombo’s Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickrea slammed continuous delays in repatriating Tamil refugees after the war between the Sri Lankan military and Tamil Tiger rebels ended back in May.

He said that “co-ordination amongst State authorities” leaves a lot to be desired. Demining and reconstruction, for example, are proceeding at a slow pace.

Yet the government stated that refugees could go home on the condition that they are housed by relatives in conditions of security. For the prelate this patent contradiction is humiliating to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

De Chickrea reminded the government that IDPs are not war prisoners, but people who left their homes for camps on the urging of the military, who put their trust in their promises.

The bishop wants the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration to provide information and clarity on the real situation in the areas once under the control of Tamil Tigers. The government should “demonstrate transparency in its management of the crisis” and in the reintegration of 250,000 refugees, he said.

De Chickrea is concerned about the refugees’ conditions since the “anticipated rain is an added factor that calls for responsible action with speed.”

In the meantime, reports are coming out camps around Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna and near Menik Farm that indicate that the refugee emergency is getting worse, and that violence against Tamil is increasing.

Local sources are saying that the military is treating everyone as a potential rebel supporter. In the camps, an atmosphere of oppression prevails.

More than 10,000 young Tamil (18 to 30) have been moved to special camps on suspicion of ties with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Ltte). Here they are subjected to interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects.  What is more, they also include 1,875 women, 40 of whom are pregnant.

There are also reports about people disappearing every day and soldiers using violence against women.

The lack of proper sanitation and toilet facilities as well as food and drinking water is disproportionately affecting women and children. Refugees are forced to stand in long lines for long hours just to get meagre food rations.

The arrival of the rainy season could worsen outbreaks of typhus and dysentery, which are already having devastating effects on IDPs.

School-age children are being denied the opportunity to study and have lost almost an entire school year.

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