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    » 09/10/2009, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    Civil society in Sri Lanka: freedom for Tamil refugees and true democracy

    Melani Manel Perera

    Demonstration in Colombo of the newborn People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy. The movement brings together Christian leaders of the island, human rights activist and NGO workers. They are demanding the release of refugees, more power to local governments and an economic policy that protects workers.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) - Leaders of Christian Churches in Sri Lanka, human rights activists and NGO workers on the island came together, Wednesday 9, opposite the railway station in Colombo for a demonstration of the newborn People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy .

    In 300 they demonstrated to ask the Government to release the Tamil refugees detained in camps, for the implementation of 13th Amendment of the constitution to devolve more powers to local governments, higher wages and lower cost of living and the defence of press freedom in the country. Among the demonstrators present were Tamil and Sinhalese who held banners and placards written in their own language and photos of relatives and friends imprisoned in refugee camps (see photo).

    Fr. Yohan Devananda, an Anglican clergyman of Nawal one of the chief organisers of the new movement, tells AsiaNews: "It's time to break the silence because the situation has become shameful. On the surface it seems more bearable, but actually we are moving towards a dictatorial approach”.

    Explaining the intentions of  the new group Reverend Devananda announces "other initiatives in other districts, until we get answers to our questions”.  The same commitment was reiterated by Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda at the end of the event. The Catholic priest, coordinator of the Christian Solidarity Movement, reminded participants: "This is just the beginning. We must continue until the needs of the people triumph”.

    The People's Movement for Freedom and Democracy includes; the World Peace and Solidarity Movement, the Movement of National Land & Agriculture Research (MONLAR), some left-wing social movements and various figures from civil society.

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    See also

    27/10/2008 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka unaware of the fate of the population in war-torn areas
    Much of the country does not know the real conditions in which northerners live. The Christian Solidarity Movement is trying to raise funds and awareness despite politicians’ intimidation. Ordinary people pay closer attention to the movement’s campaigns. Its coordinator, Father Iddamalgoda, complains about the “lack of democracy”.

    14/09/2009 SRI LANKA
    Sisters aid elderly Tamil refugees destroyed by war
    At Vankalai in Mannar district, there is a shelter that houses 26 elderly people. It is one of three Elders Home supported by the diocese of the city in the north. Sr Kanagasabai., centre director: "They are in the bitter position of receiving care and attention while their children and relatives are suffering in the camps."

    21/04/2009 SRI LANKA
    Catholics and Anglicans remember Father Killi, martyr of war
    For friends and fellow clergymen Father Killi, a Claretian, is an example of Sinhalese-Tamil reconciliation. “Until the end he deeply believed that an actual solution could be found only through an ongoing dialogue” between the two groups, Father Iddamalgoda said.

    17/04/2009 SRI LANKA
    Groups of Christians from the south visit war refugees in Vavuniya
    The initiative is organized by the Christian Solidarity Movement, which intends to repeat the trip each week. The intention is to show a concrete sign of solidarity to war victims, and to knock down the wall of hostility between Sinhalese and Tamils, built over 25 years of conflict. AsiaNews has interviewed Fr. Sarath Iddamalgod, one of the project organizers.

    22/04/2008 SRI LANKA
    Tamils’ daily misery in northern refugee camps
    A group of Christian and Buddhist clerics manage to visit Mannar, a restricted area where the war rages, to visit refugee camps. A priest describes the daily abuses Tamils endured at the hands of the military, which is bent on winning the war but not avoiding future conflicts.



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