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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2710

Condition of IDPs pitiable, says Lankan rights activist

From S Murari, Chennai

Chennai, 17 August,( Asiantribune.com): Tamils living in make-shift camps in Vavunia are treated not like victims of war, but like war criminals. This scathing criticism has come not from expat Tamils or any pro-LTTE Indian leader, but from a Sri Lankan human rights activist, that too a Sinhalese.

Ms Nimalka Fernando, rights activist and a lawyer from Sri Lanka, has quoted former Attorney-General and Solicitor-General of Sri Lanka Chittaranjan de Silva as having told the local media that the IDPs have been torn asunder and young women forced to stay with unknown men in make-shift tents.

Ms Fernando, who visited the Koodalnagar refugee camp in Madurai last week, told The New Indian Express in an interview that even toothbrush and soap are luxuries for the refugees and they do not even have change of clothes.

Echoing her views, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has expressed concern over possible outbreak of epidemic with the onset of the monsoon as refugees are living in flood-prone areas. It has cited reports that the camps have been flooded following recent heavy rains.

Mr V Suresh, president of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the PUCL, told reporters here on Saturday that " toilets for inmates are not only inadequate, they also overflow, leading to water contamination".

He said "the plight of children, the elderly and the handicapped is appalling as they are not able to compete with able bodied persons for essential commodities and toilet facilities".

Basing his comments on leaked information, Mr Suresh has alleged that the Government is show-casing only Zone 0 and I to visiting journalists and diplomats as the tents are built with tin roofs. Housing units in Zones 2 to 6 are made from UN supplied tents and each tent is shared by two or three families.

Further, supply of cooked food has been stopped two weeks ago and inmates have to depend on dry ration or individual kitchens, he has said.

Mr Suresh has called on the international community to intervene and save the inmates from a possible outbreak of an epidemic.

Ms Fernando, in her interview, has said:"The Tamils are not treated as victims, but as war criminals. If this is the plight of innocent civilians, I can't imagine the plight of the LTTE cadre, including disabled, who are being detained in special camps".

Ridiculing the claim of the Sri Lankan Government that it needs time to resettle them as their areas of habitation have to be cleared of mines, Ms Fernando has asked that "if these people could reach the camps without being blown up by landmines, why can't they return the same way?".

She has charged the armed forces with having shelled civilian areas to force the people to seek refuge in camps. She has further alleged that the Sri Lankan military is sweeping the shelled areas and dumping bodies into the sea to obliterate all evidence of war crimes.

Ms Fernando has said she could breathe free air in the Koodalnagar refugee camp, something that is missing in the camps in Lanka.

- Asian Tribune -

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