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    » 08/23/2012, 00.00

    SRI LANKA

    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 stage.

    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 country.

     

     

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    See also

    06/02/2012 SRI LANKA
    Jaffna: IDPs since 1990, the government forgets thousands of people
    100 families living in the Udduppidi refugee camp, 52 in that of Sinnaweli. For a year the government considers these people "resettled" and does not send more flour, rice, lentils, coconut oil and sugar. Displaced people: "Without dignity, we want to be citizens of our country."

    25/06/2009 SRI LANKA
    Six priests held prisoner and in solitary confinement in refugee camps
    Four priests of the diocese of Jaffna and 2 OMI missionaries who lived among the Tamil population until the last moments of the war. The conditions are on the verge of collapse and humanitarian organizations have their hands tied. The Army oversees the refugees in search of traces of the Tamil Tigers.

    29/07/2009 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lankan government asks Caritas for assistance to help 10,000 refugees
    The Catholic charity is now helping 83,000 war victims. In order to cope with the new request it will use funds from donations the Pope put aside for humanitarian aid.

    11/01/2007 SRI LANKA
    War threatens education: closed university, youth kidnapped and tortured
    The abduction of a student of Jaffna University, freed after seven days of torture, has threatened plans to resume classes that have been suspended for five months. Courses should have reopened on 22 January but “at the moment it would be impossible”.

    20/11/2013 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lanka gives go ahead to first ever (government) survey on human rights violations
    Announced by the recently established government Commission for Human Rights. Local and Commonwealth experts will participate in the investigation. For the British Prime Minister it is "insufficient" and urges Colombo to accept a completely independent commission of inquiry.



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