07/19/2011, 00.00
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Jaffna, diplomats and NGOs can travel to the north without authorization

by Melani Manel Perera
The restrictions remain for individuals or groups who are visiting areas or meeting military officers. Human rights activists: a "positive" sign, but urgent need to "demilitarize the area." The Northern Province is the most marked by the thirty-year ethnic conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - Diplomats and members of local and international NGOs can once again travel to northern Sri Lanka, without asking for permission or visas from the Ministry of Defense. For now, individuals and groups who plan to visit areas or meet military officers will still require a defence pass. Campaigners have welcomed the news as a positive sign for the reconciliation process, since the north is one of the areas most affected by the long ethnic conflict that ended in 2009. However, they stress that what is even more important is the complete demilitarization of the province.

Jehan Perera, a human rights activist and executive director of the National Peace Council, sees this relaxation as a "positive development", because it shows that the government is "acting in a transparent manner and has nothing to hide in the Northern Province". But what is most urgent is that "the government reduces the level of militarization and - continues human rights activist - restores civil administration."

Despite these positive notes, the national convener of NAFSO (the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement) Herman Kumara has asked the government to be clearer: "It is not clear whether this opening will have a deadline, but especially what it refers to. Can we only travel without Ministerial permission? Or can we also work without it?".

Even more cautious is Nimalka Fernando, director of the Women's Political Academy: "All this - she says – has happened too late, two years after the war and only under pressure at a national and international level. The families had no immediate need for freedom of movement, to return to everyday life. " The human rights activist also recalls the violence the recent violence in Jaffna, when unknown groups launched pieces of dead dog against the headquarters of the Tamil supporters, and of the demilitarization says: "As well as the easing of restrictions, they must reduce the " Sinhalization" of the North, to ensure resettlement for all and full freedom of association. "

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