» 08/23/2012, 00.00
Jaffna Catholics: government is lying about civil war refugees
Melani Manel Perera
The Jaffna Diocese Commission for Justice and Peace (Cjpcdj) argues that the reality in northern Sri Lanka (devastated by civil war) differs from official version presented to the international community. Hundreds of thousands of refugees still to be resettled; territory militarised; Buddhism forced on people; worship of other faiths banned; war cemeteries desecrated.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - The reality in which civil war survivors
live in northern Sri Lanka is far from the image presented by the government to
the international community. This
was stated by the Jaffna Diocese' Commission for Justice and Peace (Cjpcdj), in
an official statement. In the document, the Cjpcdj explains that the
population of the Northern Province undergoes physical and psychological abuse
of various kinds, which limit freedom of speech and violate basic human rights.
Added to this the inability to be able to obtain justice, a condition that
"day after day is exhausting the hopes of the people" to rebuild a
just democratic and peaceful community.
Among the most urgent problems to be solved, Cjpcdj indicates the thousands of
refugees (internally displaced people, IDPs) still without a home, the military
presence on the territory, the lack of aid from the government for
reconstruction. Moreover there are reports of a series of physical and psychological abuses
leading people to live in an atmosphere of constant tension: the destruction of
the war cemeteries; bans on prayer services for the victims of war, theft,
looting and murder. Finally, the enactment of a kind of cultural
depersonalization of the population, mostly Tamil and Catholic. This is done
through various attempts to impose Buddhism, providing employment and privileges
only to those who openly support the government, terrorizing people,
threatening them with death.
Rather than admit and face the reality of the facts, highlights the Cjpcdj, the
government plans to widen and pave the roads, build new bridges, start work to
expand the rail network, opening new banks, shopping centers and hotels; renew
and modernize parks. This in the eyes of a visitor or a foreign delegate
appears as evidence that the North is developing quickly, after a war that
lasted 30 years.
The Cjpcdj then gives some numbers that prove the apparent discrepancy between
the reality and what is told to the international community. According to the
Government of Sri Lanka in fact, of the approximately 300 thousand IDPs (first
and second generation, ed) caused by war, 95% have already been resettled,
provided with a house and all the necessary amenities. Only a few thousand (3-5
thousand people) still live in refugee camps, but within three or four months
they will also be resettled. However, the UN report on
alleged war crimes committed by the armed forces in the final stages of the
conflict (2009) gives different numbers. According to the document, in the
districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar 117,888 people have yet
to be resettled permanently. Of these, 18,589 are in Vavuniya, 4928 in Mannar and 94,371 in Jaffna. A substantial
number of refugees live with friends and relatives.
According to the Cjpcdj, the suggestions contained in the report of the Lessons
Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the Board President Rajapaksa set
up to investigate precisely the period examined by the UN, are a good start,
but fail to address all aspects reported by people . Nevertheless, the
government's response to LLRC "not encouraging" the demilitarization
of former war zones has not yet occurred, inquires to find out what happened to
the disappeared have never started; resettlement is still at an embryonic
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Jaffna finally outlines the
steps to be taken as soon as possible: provide real civil administration and
not just window dressing and do not allow the military to interfere in people's
daily lives, removing the army from government offices and schools, democratic
elections and the independence of the judiciary to ensure security and
protection of Tamil prisoners, particularly those detained in the south of the
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