Sri Lanka ambassador's refugee claims absurd, says US Academic

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 August 2010, 10:23 GMT]
Robert Oberst, professor of political science, Nebraska Wesleyan University, and an expert on Sri Lanka commenting on Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Canada, Chitranganee Wagiswara's remark that Tamil boat refugees were a "human smuggling operation with links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam," said Wagiswara's claims "would be offensive, if they were not so absurd," and added that if Wagiswara wanted to silence critics, "she would be better served to persuade her government to allow outside independent observers into the Tamil areas to report on the conditions rather than to slander and attack those who question her government," Rediff.com reported.

Prof. Robert Oberst
"The Director of Rehabilitation in… Tamil Nadu has said that the 103,000 Tamil refugees in India are reluctant to return to Sri Lanka because of the problems that Wagiswara states do not exist. They choose to remain in the camps or as non-camp refugees," Oberst said, according to Rediff.

"She doesn't mention… that the country is still under war time emergency provisions, which allows unlimited detention without court hearings for Tamils. Nor does she mention that the country has taken a large percentage of Tamil land in the Northern Province for military bases, forcing farmers to struggle to survive," Oberst added.

"The Lankan government has created this situation by prohibiting outsiders and reporters from traveling and meeting freely with Tamils in the North," he added, Rediff reported.

"They have also viciously attacked critics. If you question the conditions that these people are fleeing from, you are called a supporter of organised crime as Wagiswara has done, or a terrorist as Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has done," he noted.

"A nation state that does not do these things has nothing to hide," Oberst concluded.

 

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