Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sri Lanka accused of 'ethnic cleansing' of Tamil areas - paper

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 May 2009, 12:43 GMT]"Aid officials, human rights campaigners and politicians claim Tamils have been driven out of areas in the north-east of the country by killings and kidnappings carried out by pro-government militias. They say the government has simultaneously encouraged members of the Sinhalese majority in the south to relocate to the vacated villages," Telegraph, UK, said, adding that according to an aid worker the recent killings in Trincomalee "were part of a strategy to drive out Tamils." Full text of the article follows:Aid officials, human rights campaigners and politicians claim Tamils have been driven out of areas in the north-east of the country by killings and kidnappings carried out by pro-government militias.They say the government has simultaneously encouraged members of the Sinhalese majority in the south to relocate to the vacated villages.One foreign charity worker told the Daily Telegraph the number of Tamils disappearing in and around Trincomalee, 50 miles south of the final conflict zone in Mullaitivu, had been increasing in the last three months.He claimed to have known 15 of the disappeared, three of whom had been found dead. He said all three bodies showed signs of torture, while two were found with their hands tied behind their backs and single bullet wounds in their heads.Another aid worker said the killings were part of a strategy to drive out the Tamils."Eastern province is vulnerable, there's cleansing by the Sinhalese. There will be more problems with land grabbing. The demography changes and the Tamils who are the majority will soon become a minority," he said.He claimed many villagers had moved out after the army declared their land to be part of a 'high security zone' and Sinhalese had been given incentives to move in to provide support services to new military bases.Many Tamils sold their homes and land at below-market prices after members of their families had been killed or had disappeared, he said.One western human rights advocate said Tamils in and around Trincomalee were terrified because they believed the police were either complicit in, or indifferent to, the numbers disappearing or found dead. "There's no investigation. It's a climate of terror and impunity," he said.A local campaigner for the families of the disappeared said the killings were speeding the flight of Tamils from the area. "When there's a killing other Tamils move out. Who goes to the Sinhalese police? You either live under threat or you move out," he said.He said much of the "ethnic cleansing" was being done in the name of economic development in which Tamil villagers were being moved out to make way for new roads, power plants and irrigation schemes, while Sinhalese workers were being drafted in with incentives including free land and housing."Thousands of Sinhalese are coming in, getting government land and government assistance from the south. It's causing huge tensions," he said.He and others fear this model will now be applied to the north where the final army onslaught to defeat the Tamil Tigers left 95 per cent of the buildings demolished or heavily damaged.Since the victory earlier this month, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has been under pressure to 'win the peace' with a generous devolution package for Tamils in the north.Ministers have said they want to break the identification of the Tamils with the northern and eastern provinces and integrate them into the Sinhalese majority population throughout the country.In Colombo, billboard posters have contrasted the "divided" pre-victory Sri Lanka, with the Tamil north and east shaded red, and the "united" post-war island.Ministers have said billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the area's roads, buildings, schools, hospitals and water, electricity and communications infrastructure. Community leaders and Tamil politicians fear this will mean a further influx of Sinhalese.R. Sampanthan, the parliamentary leader of the Tamil National Alliance and an MP for Trincomalee said he shared these fears. A new road being constructed from Serubilla, a Sinhalese village in Trincomalee district to Polonaruwa, a Tamil village, was under construction and Sinhalese families were being settled on either side of the road as it snakes further north-east."It's ethnic cleansing, and we're concerned that this is what they will also do in the north," he said.
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Sri Lanka accused of 'ethnic cleansing' of Tamil areas

Sri Lanka: Tamil refugees plead for help to find missing relatives

Refugees from Sri Lanka's war with the Tamil Tigers have spoken of their terrifying escape from the 'no-fire zone' and pleaded for help to find missing relatives.

By Dean Nelson in Vavuniya Last Updated: 7:34PM BST 26 May 2009

Civilians stand behind the barbed-wire perimeter fence of the Manik Farm refugee camp located on the outskirts of northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniy Photo: REUTERS
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph at Vavuniya, where 210,000 people are being held in five camps for "internally displaced people", ragged Tamils said they had come under attack from both sides as the 26-year civil war reached its conclusion last week.
Many clutched a razor wire fence, desperately searching the crowds on the other side for a familiar face as they tried to discover whether their loved ones were still alive and at liberty, or in another of the camps, where the overcrowded conditions and made worse by poor sanitation, inadequate food and severe water shortages.

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The refugees are not allowed to leave the camps even if they are not suspected of being Tamil Tiger fighters. While the Colombo government has said that it will clear the camps during the course of the year, it is anxious not to allow separatist fighters to evade their reach by posing as civilians and simply walking free.
Bhuvaneswari, whose son and two daughters are missing, held photographs through the wire. "Nine members of my family are missing, please help me find them," she said. "They've been missing since the mass exodus on April 20th. When the army entered the safe zone and cut the area in two, we were separated. We don't know if they've been killed by the army or what."
At "Zone Four", a camp for recent arrivals, men stripped to the waist were washing themselves in an open drain. One man showed his camp ration card which recorded only two evening meals in six days, while another emaciated elderly man was so weak from an infection that he could not stand or speak and appeared close to death as he lay in a crowded tent.
Many said they had been shelled from their homes in the army's ferocious advance across the north-east of the island, and they had been forced to flee more than a dozen times before reaching the so-called "no-fire zone".
Thangaraja, 59, a carpenter, said that his family had moved 14 times since January as the Tigers retreated into the "no-fire zone" on the north-east coast. He said they had been shelled by the army, shot at by Tamil Tigers to stop them escaping, and lost several relatives in the cross-fire.
"My son and daughter-in-law, my brother-in-law, my cousin, all died in shelling attacks. We built bunkers and kept moving from one place to another. Shells were falling everywhere. Four people died in my family while I was there. We just left their bodies in the bunker and filled them in," he said.
He wants to go back to his home "in freedom", but his main concern is for other missing relatives. "Lots of my relatives have been injured but we don't know where they are. We can't go outside the camp to contact people," he said.
An army spokesman said that up to 6,000 families had been reunited to date, and that they were working to bring separated families together.
But he added: "At the moment we don't know how many families are separated or how many disappeared."
One refugee said that thousands of fleeing civilians were separated from their families when they reached the army check-point, where they were pushed onto buses and taken to different hospitals and camps. Navamani, 43, from Vattuvagal in Mullaitivu district, said she had lost her three children, aged 16,18 and 21, in the chaos.
At Vavuniya's Zone Two, a few miles down the road, a mother and daughter who had been separated for five months had finally found one another, but were not allowed to embrace.
Kandaswamy, 73, was weeping on one side of the razor-wire, and reaching out to her daughter, Laxmi, 45, who has been in detention since fleeing the final battle earlier this month. She needed all the comfort she could get – four of her five children had been killed in shelling, she said.

SLA interrogates Tamil daily editor in Jaffna[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 May 2009, 04:53 GMT]
Sri Lanka Army (SLA) civil administration office summoned Monday the editor of a popular Tamil daily in Jaffna for interrogation into a news item related to abduction of children for ransom, published in the front page of the daily, sources in Jaffna said. The daily, however, intimidated by SLA authorities in Palaali head quarters and SLA-backed paramilitaries, had published a refutation of the story published earlier. Abductions of children for ransom similar to such incidents in Batticaloa and Trincomalee continue in Jaffna peninsula.SLA authorities in Jaffna, however, had said that the news about the abductions were false as no one has complained or brought such incidents to their notice.As Jaffna peninsula is known to be one of the dangerous places in the world for journalists and media personnel, the editor being taken in for interrogation, has created fear and anxiety among them.


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