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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2643

Sri Lanka: An untold story behind Kantale repatriation?

Munza Mushtaq - Reporting from Colombo for Asian Tribune

Colombo, 20 September, ( only a handful of displaced families from Muttur still left in Kantale, questions have arisen on the actual reason for the sudden resettlement procedure adopted by the government to repatriate over 45,000 civilians from the camps within a short span of 48 hours.

It is reliably learnt that while a sizeable amount of civilians agreed to go back to their homes without much persuasion, a further substantial number of families were virtually 'encouraged' by local law-enforcement officers to go back to their homes in Muttur and surrounding villages soon after Sampoor was captured by security forces early this month.

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) deputy secretary general Nizam Kariapper also confirmed that the police and security forces had verbally assured and encouraged the displaced families that their villages were safe and so they should go back.

Mr. Kariapper however noted that his party considered it a big relief that the civilians had decided to move out of Kantale taking into consideration that even the Kantale government agent was not very cooperative. "We consider the speedy resettlement procedure adopted by the government, a good move or else often there are tendencies that once civilians become very comfortable with the area, it's hard to remove them from these villages."

However sources who declined to be quoted said that the government's actual reason for the speedy resettlement was not known but the belief was that the government was trying to highlight the resettlement as a positive sign to the international community just to show that everything was hunky-dory in Sri Lanka.

A defence ministry statement issued on September 8th however claimed that, "The displaced have voluntarily agreed to move into their hometown as the Security Forces successfully eliminated the terrorist threat to the areas by capturing the LTTE strong-holds in Sampur."

Sources insisted however that although a large number of displaced civilians - a majority of whom were Muslims - had voluntarily agreed to go back to their homes, on grounds that the month of Ramazan was around the corner, and they preferred to observe the holy month staying in their homes, despite them continuing to be edgy about the security situation in their villages, a large number of people refused to leave the camps claiming that they were still not comfortable with the security arrangements in Muttur and other villages.

"If you assess the situation, you would realize that there is a slip somewhere. How often have you observed a situation where thousands of civilians were repatriated for resettlement in huge numbers within short a span of just 48 hours. Sampoor may have been captured, but it is unrealistic to think that this was what led to the people to suddenly repatriate," they noted.

By late last week, approximately 90% of the displaced had left Kantale and returned to their villages. According to Muslim Aid country director in Sri Lanka, Mohammed Amjad Saleem, 180 families were left in Kantale, and it was likely that they would also leave the camps in the coming days.

The government reportedly provided some 170 buses to facilitate the transportation of those displaced from Kantale to Muttur, while several other groups were sent by passenger vessels from Trincomalee to Muttur

- Asian Tribune -

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