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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1920

Thousands of lives would have been saved if Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora were invited long time ago

By Henry Sathananthan from Australia

Twenty one of us went to Colombo to get help for our refugees (IDPs) in the North by invitation of the foreign minister, the Hon. Mr. Bogalagama. This was the first time a foreign minister invited the Tamil Diaspora for direct talks in a 2 day conference organized in Colombo, for which we are very thankful. The Government listened to us, one to one, each with diverse opinions and we initiated a constructive dialogue.

This should have been done a long time ago and would have saved thousands of lives. We opened the door for further negotiation for anyone who wants to go and we will facilitate this to the best of our ability.

The talks were cordial and various matters were discussed including the rehabilitation of the IDPs, devolution, discrimination of Tamils by successive governments, safety of the people in the war zone, resettlement, medical aid etc., focussing on the immediate future of the Tamils.

We also met four other ministers and their secretaries, including the Basil Rajapakse, who elaborated at length about the rehabilitation of the East, which was impressive. Dr.Tissa Vithana spoke to us about devolution which was most encouraging. We also met some Tamil politicians but not the TNA who were conspicuously absent, and asked them to help the people in the North. We believe that the TNA must go to their electorates and help the IDPs, which is their responsibility.

When I met the foreign minister in October 2008 in Melbourne with Dr.Nadesan, I requested him to open up the roads and allow our IDPs to go anywhere they like to settle, which he agreed to in Colombo among other concessions, which will be elaborated in our website in due course by other members of our team.

We represented ourselves as individuals members of the Diaspora and seek nothing in return. I represented my forefathers and my father, the late C.Arunachalam. We hardly knew each other before we met in Colombo.

Since our mission was primarily to help the IDPs, I undertook urgent medical needs for the IDPs and met the Secretary Health Ministry on 30th March 2009, in keeping with my expertise, which was agreed to at the conference. We will do our best to help these people who have nothing left, except maybe there homes or land.

The government has given them shelter, food and some medical aid and now it is our turn to help, irrespective of our political affiliations. The government cannot do this alone, since they have to look after, the soldiers, as well. The news this week has not been good. We have lost more innocent lives and a generation of youth on both sides in this conflict, our own children - a tragedy indeed! We may be able to stop this by further negotiation, if the Tamil Diaspora all over the world are willing to do so now.

Here are the stats:-

* 60,000 IDPs in government welfare camps – more coming day by day- many injured or maimed

* 60,000 or more trapped in 20 sq Km in the “safety zone” under LTTE control (Peace Council)

* 14 IDP camps in Vavuniya (see table attached) – one was visited by some of us

* 1 camp in Ambepussa – 39 youth who surrendered – we saw it and were impressed

Urgent needs from Health Ministry:-

* Anaesthetists

* Orthopaedics surgeons

* Psychologists

* Physiotherapists & Occupational therapists

* Drugs and bandages (drugs approved by Ministry – are cheaper in SL)

* Cheddikullam hospital – equipment and doctors – instruments cheaper in SL

* Upgrade Mannar and Vavuniya hospitals

* Nurses and Counsellors

* Tents for refugees and doctors in camps

Sri Lankan, Indian and French doctors are already there plus 14 NGOs - local and international

Doctors need to work at least 1 month – security, transport in SL and house? will be provided.

So I appeal to all doctors and paramedics in the Diaspora – Tamil, Sinhalese, Burgher, Muslim and also Australians. We have to work closely with the Health Ministry and Sri Lankan doctors

Other needs for IDPs. These will be addressed by other members of our group eventually

* Food and nutrition

* Beds and sheets

* Schools, teachers, books

* Computers and CDs, DVDs, PPTs

* Prostheses

• Toys

Yes we can :-

* Sponsor a student or orphan in a school

* Sponsor a family for rehabilitation

* Rehab a whole village – build homes

* Ask your relatives in SL to give a home to a family – anywhere in Sri Lanka

* Contribute funds to ICRC or camps, churches, temples or open your bank account in SL

I urge the Tamil Diaspora and all Sri Lankans to come forward in the darkest hour of our tormented history. Don’t take a back seat now, politics apart. The IDPs of all communities need your support, now or never. They have suffered long enough. They are our own people – not so fortunate as we all are. They have to be resettled and cannot live in camps for the rest of their lives. This is their hour of greatest need. Please visit http://srilankan-diaspora.org/ for images of refugees and other information

We lived as one not so long ago, remember our school and university days and the free education we had? Lets work together to help our motherland and our peoples.

Arunachalam Henry Sathananthan Professor, Monash Immunolgy & Stem Cell Laboratories, Monash University

- ASian Tribune -

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