Resettle, provide relief to East refugees, TNA urges UN
[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 March 2007, 11:45 GMT]
Tamil National Alliance (TNA), in a letter to the United Nations representative in Colombo, urged the International Agencies to take steps to resettle displaced refugees, all Tamils, by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) offensive in the East. The TNA also complained most of the refugees's houses have suffered damages and that they be provided with compensation to rebuild their houses.
Full text of the letter follows:
27th March 2007.
His Excellency Frederick Lyons,
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian co-ordinator and
UNDP Resident Representative
Tamil Civilians recently rendered refugees in the Eastern Province.
As you are aware, Tamil Civilians, men, women and children, comprising of families who are historical inhabitants of the Eastern Province, were as a result of recent military action evicted and around 150,000 such civilians are refugees in Batticaloa at present. Such military action consisted of indiscriminate aerial bombardment, heavy artillery fire, including the rampant use of multi barrel rocket launchers into civilian populated areas.
Of these approximately 150,000 refugees presently in Batticaloa, approximately 21000 refugees are from the southern villages of Trincomalee District, and the balance approximately 130,000 refugees are from the Northern and Western villages of the Batticaloa District.
These persons led a peaceful life in their native villages. They lived in their own houses and mostly carried on their own occupation; farming, fishing, livestock breeding, etc. It must be emphasised that whatever assets these persons owned were acquired through their own efforts. The Sri Lankan Government did not make a contribution towards the residential or livelihood facilities of these people.
Their assets- houses, plantations, crops, live stock, vehicles, farming equipment, fishing equipment and other belongings have been destroyed. They have been reduced to a state of destitution and penury.
It is the contention of these people, that such harsh and severe military action in which they were helpless victims, was unjustified and against international humanitarian law. The Sri Lankan State has acted with callous disregard for the safety and security of Tamil Civilian life and property.
In our estimate over 300 Tamil Civilians were killed and over 1000 Tamil Civilians suffered grievous injury, as a result of such harsh military action.
It is reported that steps are to be taken to resettle these people. Meanwhile, there have also been complaints of attempts at compulsory and forcible resettlement.
It is the contention of these people, who have suffered immense harm, that they should not be taken back and dumped in some place as desired by the Government.
The following matters need to be ensured when resettlement takes place:
- Evicted persons should be resettled in the same land from which they were evicted. They are the lawful owners of these lands.
- They should be provided with housing on such land. Most houses have been destroyed or are badly damaged.
- They should be provided with acceptable and neutral security. The evicted persons are one hundred percent (100%) Tamils , the Sri Lankan security forces are over ninety nine (99%) Sinhala. There is no mutual trust between them. Particularly, in the aftermath of the severe military action executed by the Sri Lankan Security forces, the evicted Tamil Civilian population would not be safe with security provided by the same forces. There are reports of Tamil persons who have gone missing and other Tamil persons who have been arrested, subjected to torture and detained.’
- They should be provided with the necessary means to commence their occupation; such as farming equipment, fishing equipment and other facilities.
- Children should be able to recommence schooling; around 20000 children are not able to attend school at present, this situation should not continue.
Temples, orphanages, other public buildings have been destroyed or damaged. These should be restored. Medical facilities should be provided.
Pending the implementation of a proper programme for resettlement, and in order to facilitate resettlement, it would be appropriate to set up transit camps at or close to the villages from which the people were evicted. This would enable these persons to partake in the resettlement programme, and also commence their occupational activities.
We urge that this programme be initiated and implemented under the auspices and responsibility of relevant United Nations Agencies. Such a step would inspire much confidence amongst these severely traumatised people.
Mavai S. Senathirajah
Member of Parliament,
Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi