Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Government denies allegation of internment of IDPs

The Government of Sri Lanka rejects the allegation by Human Rights Watch that more than 400 civilians displaced by the conflict in Northern Sri Lanka have been detained by the Government. The reference is to the Kalimoddai Welfare Centre in Mannar.

At present, the Kalimoddai Welfare Centre accommodates 232 internally displaced families, which includes 110 newly displaced families. In keeping with its obligations, the Government of Sri Lanka has been providing food, shelter, and other essential facilities to these families who had fled the uncleared areas and sought refuge with the Sri Lankan authorities.

The Government has ensured security for these IDPs following threats to their lives from the LTTE. It has been observed by the authorities that the LTTE frequently attempts to infiltrate IDP centres to operate among the civilians. Hence, the Government has been constrained to impose certain temporary restrictions on IDPs, due to security concerns and the on-going military operations in the Mannar area.

Since some of these displaced people wished to move out of the Welfare Centre and stay with their relatives and friends, the Government Agent of Mannar was requested to carry out a survey to ascertain their wishes in this regard. The survey was duly carried out and a decision has been taken to allow those who are originally from the Eastern Province and Vavuniya to return to these areas and stay with host families. Initially, 14 families have been allowed to leave the Centre. Returnees from India consisting of 19 families were also allowed to go back to their original homes.

In order to provide enhanced security and to ensure freedom of movement of the IDPs, action is also being taken to shift this Welfare Centre to an alternate location in the Vavuniya District. Suitable sites at Parayanarkulam and Murunkan have been identified for this purpose.

The decision of these civilians to leave the uncleared areas, defying the LTTE's threats, demonstrates their confidence in the Government of Sri Lanka to provide them security. The Government is committed to assisting all displaced people to return to their original places of residence.

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