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Welcome for Sri Lanka plan: CEN 10.02.09 p 7. October 6, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Bishop of Colombo has welcomed the Sri Lankan government’s pledge to resettle by January 31 the majority of the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) driven from their homes in the final months of the 26-year civil war between the government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

However, Bishop Duleep de Chickera on Sept 24 called for the government to open the “areas being de-mined and reconstructed” to the press and to give regular updates on the reconstruction of northern Sri Lanka.

Bishop welcomes Sri Lankan pledge over displaced people

“This will in turn provide information to all Sri Lankans, whether displaced or not, on the progress being made in this regard,” he said, and in doing so, “the government will demonstrate transparency in its management of the crisis and State Ministries and Officials will quite rightly be held accountable by the people.”

On Sept 9 the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the government would release IDPs from government camps to live with relatives, subject to police checks. The Sri Lankan government has said it hopes to resettle up to 80 per cent of the IDPs by year’s end, with most people in new homes by Jan 31.

Aid workers have been critical of the poor conditions in the camps, raising fears the coming monsoon season will lead to outbreaks of disease. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that one camp, Menik Farm, was built to house 28,896 IDPs, but is housing 54,621 refugees. Reports the release programme had been delayed prompted protests from Bishop de Chickera. “If the decision has been put on hold it must be reactivated,” he said. “If the response of relatives has been slow, more time and wider publicity should be given.

“If persons said to be released are in fact being transferred to camps in different Regions, this is misleading and must stop. Reports of the lack of co-ordination amongst State Authorities are disappointing, and all those responsible for implementing this decision should be required to ensure co-ordination, compassion and speed,” the bishop said.

The decision to release, should be seen as an “interim measure,” Bishop de Chickera said. “The much more urgent task is to expedite the process of resettlement. Once the ‘home areas’ of the Displaced are cleared of mines and the required infrastructure built, persons displaced, whether in the camps or with relatives, should be resettled in their original homes,” he said.

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