amidst restrictions on IDPs’ fundamental freedoms
In two specific
locations in the North — Jaffna and Vavuniya — local
elections will be held offering the citizenry an
opportunity to democratically elect their
representatives. It is also of immense symbolic value
and marks the end of a 27-year-old war and the
reinforcement of civil administration.
Though the general
belief is that polls have come too soon, the eagerness
with which the government has moved into the election
phase post war is not surprising, given the political
adroitness of the administration to record quick
political gains in the first flush of war. And the same
applies to the ambitious programme to resettle at least
half the displaced population within 180 days. An
insurmountable task in the eyes of many but an important
If post war success
stories include snap elections and quick resettlement
plans, the Tamil political leaders and civil rights
activists claim that the manner in which the IDP camps
are run with severe restrictions of movement and lacking
outside access, is a violation of their fundamental
rights, International Covenants, Civil and Political
Rights and the Guiding Principles on Internal
Displacement that do grant IDPs the right to liberty of
movement and the right to move.
restriction of movement for the IDPs and the denial of
access by outside parties to the camps have now resulted
in a group of opposition political leaders petitioning
the Supreme Court seeking court intervention to secure
their right to access the camps for IDPs.
development, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) too has
lodge protest with the Indian Minister of External
Affairs, S. M. Krishna last week stating ‘an environment
of secrecy and complete lack of transparency prevailed’
with regard to the camps for the internally displaced.
According to TNA
Group Leader R. Sampanthan, ‘the IDPs have no freedom of
movement. Access to camps is severely restricted and
this denial applies to legislators who rightfully
represent the IDPs, human rights groups and independent
To buttress his
argument, he adds that thousands have given up their
homes when High Security Zones (HSZs) expanded, new
military check points, camps and the military
installations were created in the north.
"Intrusion by the
armed forces is no longer justifiable," the TNA letter
political agitation to gain access to IDPs, the issue of
restriction of IDP movements, has now formed it into a
matter before the country’s fundamental rights
The Centre for
Policy Alternatives (CPA) too challenged in court the
curtailment of movement of Internally Displaced Persons
(IDPs) interned in the camps. When the matter came up
before the Supreme Court on June 18, the state moved for
time to obtain instructions.
cited The Ministry of Defence, Defence Ministry
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, Northern Province
Competent Authority Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, Disaster
Management and Human Rights Ministry Secretary Prof.
Rajiva Wijesinha, Resettlement and Disaster Relief
Services Ministry Secretary U.L.M. Haldeen, and the
Attorney General as respondents.
A CPA spokesperson
said that the petitioners sought the court to declare
that the respondents and/or the state have violated the
fundamental rights guaranteed to the individuals placed
in the IDP camps, namely the right to equality and equal
protection under the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest
and detention, freedom to engage in any lawful
occupation profession, trade, business or enterprise, as
well as freedom of movement and of choosing their places
of residence within Sri Lanka.
IDPs to camps
petitioners maintain that according to international
standards enshrined in the International Covenants,
Civil and Political Rights and the Guiding Principles on
Internal Displacement, IDPs have the right to liberty of
movement and the right to move freely in and out of
In this backdrop,
TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah opines that in the backdrop of
guns being silenced, there was no need to restrict the
IDPs so strongly to camps. "It is unjustifiable to have
intrusions of this nature."
The TNA is of that
firm belief that the military that currently has control
over the IDP camps would next give way to new military
installations that would be co-ordinated and managed by
a Chief of Defence Staff, a post the government is keen
to create swiftly.
The bill in this
regard has already been tabled in parliament seeking to
confer sweeping powers upon the Chief of Defence Staff,
a position believed to be tailor made for Army Commander
According to EPRLF
General Secretary, Suresh Premachandran, it is believed
that some 13,000 people have been taken in for
questioning by the security forces subsequent to which
their whereabouts are unknown, a fact also mentioned in
the TNA’s letter to the Indian External Affairs
"We have heard that
when these people are interrogated, there is little or
no neutral presence," claims Premachandran, and further
alleges that these camps are indeed concentration caps
for the Tamil people.
He says that as
legislators representing the IDPs, it is their bounden
duty to insist that the government allow the IDPs to
urgently move out of these camps without making the need
for demining an excuse for delayed resettlement of the
people. "In some areas we believe demining is not
required," he adds, further claiming that it appears as
a mere excuse to retain people in camps with no freedom
"The IDPs according
to our knowledge can’t move and can’t visit anyone,"
notes Mavai Senathirajah.
Interests of the
The TNA leaders
also have serious reservations about the composition of
the government appointed task force for northern
rehabilitation which comprises 18 Sinhalese and a single
"All the displaced
are Tamil people. Naturally, this scheme does not
safeguard the interests of the Tamil IDPs," adds
However, the TNA
has taken a position with regard to LTTE surrendees
which will prove untenable before the Rajapakse
The TNA now seeks a
complete amnesty for all LTTE surrendees, a position the
government will not accept despite the Tigers being
The TNA’s position
is that some 10,000 LTTE cadres surrendered to the Sri
Lankan military forces and in a post war climate, they
all should be granted complete amnesty.
according to Government Defence Spokesperson, Minister
Keheliya Rambukwella is completely unacceptable. "There
can never be blanket amnesties. Some of the surrendees
will surely have to be questioned and even action
instituted against them. The due legal process must
follow," adds Rambukwella who does not wish to comment
on the number of surrendees.
Release the Tamil
As for the TNA’s
call to release the three Tamil doctors who are now
under questioning by the Criminal Investigations
Department (CID), Rambukwella insists that due process
must follow. At present, three medical doctors who
served in the LTTE controlled areas and later entered
government controlled areas — Dr. T. Sathyamoorthy, Dr.
Varatharajah and Dr. Shanmugarajah — are currently under
custody as is TNA Parliamentarian for Mullaitivu, S.
In the meantime, the government
is moving into the political phase with Minister
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan being instructed to conduct
the UPFA election campaign in the north.