Government accepts it will not
be able to resettle IDPs within 180 days
By R. Wijewardene
statements made at a forum for regional security in
Thailand Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has
accepted that the government will not be able to meet
its original pledge to resettle the IDPs currently held
in Vavuniya's camps within six months. Under intense
international pressure to allow those displaced in the
fighting to return to their homes in the Wanni as soon
as possible the government had previously insisted that
civilians would be allowed to leave the camps within 180
days. The statement from the Foreign Minister indicates
however that the government now accepts the process
might take longer.
300, 000 civilians are being held at the camps. The
legitimacy of the camps and the effective detention of
the Wanni's entire civilian population remains a
sensitive political and legal issue.
post war talks with the Indian foreign minister the
Government of Sri Lanka committed to resettling
displaced civilians within a six month time frame.
Centre for Policy Alternatives CPA has filed a
fundamental rights petition claiming that the camps are
illegal as they violate the IDPs' right to freedom from
arbitrary arrest. The legality of effectively detaining
over 300,000 people by denying them the right to free
movement remains open to question.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday UNP MP A. M. M.
Naushad urged the government to state openly that the
300,000 people held at the camps were detainees rather
than IDPs as they did have homes to return to but were
being held only because of fears regarding their LTTE
reports have also claimed that infectious diseases
including meningitis, encephalitis and hepatitis are
rampant within the camps and that mortality rates among
the IDPs are extremely high with SLFP(M) Wing Leader
Mangala Samaraweera claiming that hundreds of IDPs were
dying every week.
admission that resettlement will take longer than
originally planned will only add to the pressure on the
government and bring issues of legality sharply into
focus. However in his statement Bogollagama claimed that
60% of the detainees would be re-housed within the
original 180 day time frame.