Platform for Freedom wants civil society access to northern IDP camps

The Platform For Freedom(PF) yesterday appealed to the government to permit civil society and the media, access to refugee camps in Vavuniya and Mannar, as serious allegations are being levelled with regard to the IDPs.

Representatives of the Mothers Front, UNP, SLMC, SLFP(M) and DPF, Nimalka Fernando, Tissa Attanayake, Rauff Hakeem, Mangala Samaraweera and Mano Ganeshan respectively, addressing a joint news conference in Colombo, said that Tamil civilians were invited by the government to come over to the so called ‘Safe Zone’, promising them a better life, but the reality was that they were undergoing immense suffering, without the basic necessities.

"The government and international community are making vastly different statements about the plight of the IDP’s. The only way to find out the truth would be to permit civil society, political parties and the independent media access to refugee camps."

Mano Ganeshan, alleged that the authorities had taken away 1,500 Tamil youths from the Vavuniya and Mannar refugee camps to centres in Kandy and Gampaha, but none of them have been named. "LTTE cadres may be among the Tamil civilians and there is nothing wrong in separating them, but the government cannot spirit away 1,500 youths and keep quiet about it. The families of the youths are desperately searching for them and the government has a moral obligation to reveal their identities."

Many parents and their children are being housed separately and this too was a worrying factor, he observed. "The need of the hour is transparency. The names of all those in refugee camps should be published immediately."

Nimalka Fernando, said that there was a "war without witnesses" going on in the North and Sri Lankans should be ashamed of the manner in which Tamil civilians were being treated.

"The mothers of Sri Lanka should be ashamed of what is going on in the North. 26 injured children are presently warded at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital. It is the right of mothers to visit their children, where ever they may be. What we are demanding is the protection of the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the media and not just Rupavahini and ITN."

Fernando said that their campaign was also aimed at saving the image of Mother Lanka, which has taken a huge beating due to the government’s blatant violation of human rights. "The State, has to adhere to humanitarian law when dealing with subversion. There can be no excuse for violating the human rights of its own people."

The government’s pledge not to use heavy weapons on the "Safe Zone", was broken on Vesak Poya. "This sort of militarised regime spells death to democracy and freedom. The countries that speak for Sri Lanka are themselves violating human freedom with impunity."

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