‘Allow aid to displaced’ - Minority Rights Group
[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 August 2006, 16:22 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s ethnic minorities have been the worst affected in the recent surge in violence and both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE must make a greater commitment to safeguard minority rights in their controlled areas and provide equal access to humanitarian assistance, the Minority Rights Group (MRG) said Thursday. MRG called on both sides to give international and local aid agencies unimpeded access to the affected areas and said the aim should be “to facilitate the free return, in safety, of minority communities to their homes as quickly as possible.”
The London based human rights organisation called on both sides to “urgently stop fighting, strictly observe the cease-fire and ensure the protection of minorities in their areas of control.”
As international agencies warn of a humanitarian crisis, MRG says it is “particularly concerned about the situation of displaced people and the impediments to aid agencies operating in the area.”
“The area where recent fighting has broken out is predominantly Muslim and Tamil and we are concerned at the risk to life, security and property that these minority communities face,” says Clive Baldwin, Head of International Advocacy at MRG.
“The specific needs of the Muslims and Tamils must be taken into consideration. Minority women in camps are likely to be in a particularly vulnerable situation,” Baldwin says.
“In situations of conflict minority communities are often the last to be given access to aid and we hope this will not be the case in Sri Lanka,” Baldwin adds.
“Following the attacks Muslims have had to flee to predominantly Sinhalese villages and are being housed in schools and other temporary shelters, with limited facilities,” MRG said.
“The Tamils who form the largest minority and are also part of the population of Muttur have reportedly fled to areas under Tamil Tiger control,” it said.
“Several thousand Muslims and Tamils remain trapped in areas where fighting continues.”
MRG also urges the government and LTTE to return to the negotiating process in order to find a permanent solution to the country’s conflict. The group says it is critical that when peace talks resume all communities are represented in the process.