Government cuts off Valaichenai refugee aid
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 20 January 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Government has stopped supplying emergency relief and food stamps to Tamil refugee families settled at Vinayagapuram in Valaichenai 30 km north of Batticaloa, said Kachcheri sources in Batticaloa.
The 110 refugee families who are housed in this village were displaced from nearby Miravodai after fighting erupted in the area between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and the LTTE in September 1995. They have occupied government land at Vinayagapuram ever since.
In November 1997 the Divisional Secretary of the Ottamavadi area informed the refugees that they could settle permanently at Vinayagapuram.
A local NGO called Sareeram, built 200 cottages for this purpose. However only 13 families have opted to take up permanent residence in the area.
The other families feel that the presence of the army, home guards and the police renders the area insecure and have refused to settle permanently there.
They also went on deputations to meet the Divisional Secretary (DS) - the most senior administrative officer of the area, requesting that they be allowed to go back to Miravodai and settle down, but their requests have been turned down.
But as the refugee families were not prepared to toe the line of the D.S the SLG supplied rations were stopped. The settlement of displaced persons in the East has constantly thrown up problems of this nature.
On some occasions in the east, Tamils fleeing from SLA activity are settled as refugees in camps in Muslim majority areas.
These Tamil families have problems arising not only through living cheek by jowl with the Muslims and competing for jobs, space and government handouts, but also from Muslim - Tamil rivalry elsewhere spilling over here.
In other instances, Tamil refugee settlements are purposely situated near SLA camps so that the military keeps a vigilant eye on the refugees and also ensures its own security against LTTE attacks.
Tamil refugees in such situations usually complain of problems with the army who subject the camps to security checks, arrest of young males and harass the female inmates. The return of refugees to their homes involves complicated administrative problems.
Not only should the DS in the area where they are temporarily settled be prepared to send the refugees, but the DS in the area where they came from should also consent to have them back.
The DS of the refugees' place of origin should show the land and the means to provide facilities for their rehabilitation.