Colombo prevents persons displaced by the war from returning to their homes
by Melani Manel Perera
The Sri Lankan government wants to close the last of its refugee camps, and transfer the refugees into the jungle, to a village that is being prepared. But there is no water, sewers, schools or places of worship. An appeal to internazional organizations.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Sri Lankan government has decided to take urgent measures to close the last of the camps that have housed more than 200,000 "Internally Displaced Persons" (IDPs), that is, refugees from the war zones, at the end of the conflict in May 2009. The government has announced that works are underway for the construction of a new, 600 acre village in Kombavil, in the Mullaitivu district, to house refugees from the Manik Farm of Vanvuniya. The persons concerned have expressed their refusal: they would like to return to what were once their homes and fields.
The government's problem is that the houses of the displaced persons are in the area that was the backdrop of the last phase of the war, and must still be "cleaned" of the thousands of corpses, many of which were trapped in the fortifications and trenches.The government does not want to commit to this task, and prefers to transfer the last contingent of IDPs to a new village in the jungle.
AsiaNews spoke with some of the refugees at Manik Farm, and this is their statement: "We are from different parts of Puthukudyiruppu living in this IDP camp since April 2009. any of us are fishing families and farmers. There are no facilities in this village for fishing or farming it is a jungle area. There are no income earning opportunities and no infrastructure e.g. water, sanitary facilities, school and places of worship. The children have to go to another village for school and there are no transport facilities."
One displaced woman, G. Jeyarani, also highlighted a problem that is common to many: "most of us are widows who have no male to help us to clear the land and build a house for us or even to do some garden in order to plant something for our livelihood. We fear the insecurity especially after the new phenomena of grease devil. Most of us widows and do not have male partners to protect us." "Grease Devils" is a term for intruders and nocturnal thieves who, when darkness falls, target single women. M. Shantha, a widow, says: "My husband died of shell in 2009. I have three young children. I want to go back to my own home to start my life again in my village with which I am familiar."
A Catholic nun who lives in Vavuniya supports the demands of the displaced. "I think", she told AsiaNews, "that the government's decision to send the displaced people of Manik farm to Kombavil, a place they don't even know, is against their fundamental right to food, housing and clothing. They have lived in camp since 2009 and have suffered immensely. They have a right to go back to their own homes and they want to go back to their own homes and build anew, and one day stand on their own feet".
On top of all these problems, there is another: the NGOs will not be allowed to assist them in the new village. In the camps, the NGOs help them a lot: "It is thanks to them that we were able to survive," they say. Government gave only dry ration which is now not regular: rice, palm oil and yellow lentils, which we are unable to cook or make use of for any meal. With this we cannot survive". NGOs have made survival possible. The Colomban government has promised to give every family a parcel of land and a temporary home to start a life. But the displaced do not trust them. And they are calling for international humanitarian organizations to mobilize to help them.