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The Sri Lanka government is illegally holding more than 400 civilians fleeing the North, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged while calling for their immediate release.According to HRW since March 2008, the government has detained civilians fleeing areas controlled by the LTTE at a so-called welfare centre in Kalimoddai, in the Mannar district.

The Sri Lanka armed forces have imposed severe restrictions on freedom of movement, instituting a daily pass system that limits to 30, the number of people who could leave the camp each day, and only if a family member remains behind to guarantee the detainees return in the evening.

No court has authorised their detention and no charges have been filed against any of the camp’s occupants, in violation of international human rights law.

The Sri Lankan government shouldn’t treat civilians as criminals just because they are fleeing a conflict area, said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “Valid security concerns should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, not with wholesale restrictions on freedom of movement.

Sri Lankan authorities maintain that detention at the camp is a security measure to protect displaced persons from possible LTTE reprisals. While the government has an obligation to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs), it cannot do so at the expense of their lawful rights to liberty and freedom of movement, Human Rights Watch said.

The security rationale is also undermined by the government’s practice in the last two months of also detaining at the Kalimoddai Centre at least 10 refugees who have returned from India. The Sri Lanka army has publicly indicated that Kalimoddai is just the first of more proposed sites in Vavuniya district to detain persons fleeing fighting in the LTTE-held Vanni, HRW said.

On May 10 and 11, local authorities conducted a survey in Kalimoddai camp to assess the wishes of displaced persons on their preferred place of residence. Out of the then camp population of 257, only five families indicated a wish to remain in Kalimoddai.

The large majority indicated that they wished to leave and had alternative places to stay, including with nearby host families. To date, unconfirmed information indicates only 28 people have been released.  International human rights law and international humanitarian law during internal armed conflicts prohibit arbitrary detention and unnecessary restrictions on freedom of movement.

In his May 21 report to the UN Human Rights Council on his December 2007 visit to Sri Lanka, Walter Kälin, the United Nations Secretary-General’s representative on IDPs, emphasised that IDPs in Sri Lanka remained “entitled to all guarantees of international human rights and international humanitarian law subscribed to by the State.

He noted that while the need to address security may be a component of the plan (to receive IDPs), it should be humanitarian and civilian in nature. In particular, IDPs’ freedom of movement must be respected, and IDPs may not be confined to a camp.

In addition to concerns about those who fled to government-controlled areas, many of the displaced who remain in LTTE areas are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Sri Lankan government has severely restricted humanitarian access to LTTE-controlled areas, leaving an estimated 107,000 displaced persons with inadequate relief, including water and sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, the LTTE continues to prevent civilians from leaving areas under its control, thereby impeding their ability to seek safety in other parts of the country.

Both the LTTE and the government have a poor record of providing aid to populations at risk, said Adams.Ensuring that humanitarian organizations have access to those affected by the fighting should be a priority concern, not an afterthought.

(Daily Mirror)

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“We lack road, water, and housing facilities. Our children are unable to attend school regularly as there is no proper transport service. We don’t have any facility and leading the same life even now as same as 18 years ago”.

This is a cry of an Internally Displaced single mother from Jaffna, A. Shahula who chewed betel and shared her agony. She is living with her two kids in Saltern 2 welfare camp in Puttlam.

Most of them are still leading their lives in welfare camps, and lack the normal living standard of a person. A large number of internally displaced persons from Jaffna are living in Thillaiyady, which is called “Little Jaffna”. These Internally Displaced Persons feel that, there is a discrimination between the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna and Mannar. They are frustrated about the long delay in distribution of services and goods.

The People’s Revival Front was inaugurated in order to fulfill the needs of the IDPs, who languish in the welfare cam[s for nearly two decades. They say that, they have been cheated by the politicians, and they want a political representation for the Internally Displaced Persons from Jaffna.

“Our people have lost many of their rights. We want to make a difference in their lives and restore their rights. We like to resettle them back in their own places and solve their hardships. These are the main reasons for us to start a new political party. Starting a new  party was a long due, we must have started this party 10 or 15 years ago” says M. M. Kuthoos, the President of People’s Revival Front as a call for prayer was called in the evening.

There were 20,000 Muslims, who got evicted from Jaffna district in 1990. The number and the needs have doubled during  nearly two decades. There are about 15,000 registered voters among the Jaffna Internally Displaced Persons in Puttlam.

The part of the trouble that has developed in Puttlam is between the IDPs and the host community, there aren’t enough jobs and resources for both.

“We are living with a lot of hardships in the welfare camps. There is no job opportunity, rations are not given at regular intervals. We receive the rations after four or five months” lamented S. H. Mansoor, who is running a small grocery shop adjoining his thatched house in Saltern 2 camp.

The members of the host community in Puttlam believe that, the beginning of a new party such as People’s Revival Front is a good move to meet the needs of the Internally Displaced Persons.

“When the minority political parties contest along with the majority political parties, there are injustices such as poll rigging” said  S.R.M.Muzammil, the Chief Trustee of Puttlam Grand Mosque and a member of the host community as her relaxes and supervises in his coconut grove.

Internally Displaced Persons are hopeful that the People’s Revival Party will be able to solve their problems in the future. According to the President of the People’s Revival Front that, they are planning to register it in the near future.

Puttlam is situated on the coastal belt of North Western Province. According to a survey carried out by the District Secretariat of Puttlam, the total population of the district is 8,14,000. Sinhala population is 5,85,000, Muslim population is 1,49,000, and Tamil population is 80,000. There are currently 75,000 Internally Displaced Persons from Northern Province in Puttlam.

(Ground Views)

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