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Playing politics with IDP issue

The number of those shedding crocodile tears for the war displaced is on the rise. Captains of the Victim Industry are not alone in the game of marketing human suffering. They have not yet accounted for the funds they spent purportedly on various humanitarian projects in the conflict zone. Nothing remains of the results of their much advertised projects which gobbled up millions of dollars, pounds sterling etc except massive earth bunds the LTTE built with the help of heavy equipment they took into the Vanni on the pretext of reconstruction work. It is imperative that they be made to explain how their funds were expended and how they cooperated with the LTTE. They must be made answerable for their collaboration with terrorists and misappropriation of funds. They are making a hue and cry about IDPs—initially they told the world there was a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in the Vanni in a bid to shock the international community into contributing funds generously—to distract public attention from their ugly past and to put the government on the defensive. However, NGO fraternity is not alone in the game of exploiting IDPs for expedience.

There are some politicians who have suddenly become aware of the rights of the Vanni civilians! While they were under the jackboot of Prabhakaran, who forcibly recruited child soldiers, extorted money, violently suppressed dissent, incarcerated rivals, murdered them and turned most parts of the North and the East into an open prison, the vociferous champions of human rights were playing water polo in Prabhakaran’s private swimming pool. While he was taking civilians with him like the Pied Piper while on the run, they just looked the other way and cranked up pressure on the government to abandon its military operations. Ironically, they who did not say boo to a goose a few moons ago in the Vanni, have taken up the cudgels for IDPs.

Leader of the Democratic People’s Front Mano Ganeshan has said he suspects a political motive behind what he calls a delay in resettling IDPs. The Opposition seems to fear that the government by virtue of having nearly three hundred thousand IDPs under its care would be able to tap a huge block vote at a future election. The reasons the government has given for not releasing IDPs in one go are the threat of landmines, time needed for rebuilding and the presence of terrorists among IDPs. If the vociferous critics of the IDP centres are convinced otherwise, they should disprove at least the government’s claim of landmines. They must obtain an assurance from the UN that mine clearing operations are complete and/or the situation in the Vanni is conducive to a large scale resettlement programme. Else, their protests are not to be taken seriously.

Can Ganeshan say he is not playing politics with the IDP issue? He has taken up their cause as they are Tamils, whose support he is capable of mustering at an election. He is not campaigning for resettling the Muslim IDPs in the North. Why? He knows he cannot tap the Muslim vote by doing so. Therefore, he has left it to Muslim leaders. No politician does anything for nothing.

Until the LTTE was crushed, the so-called Sinhala and Tamil constituencies had remained ethnically segregated. The LTTE became the sole representative of Tamils by wiping out dissent in areas under its control. Only the political parties which compromised themselves to be his puppets were permitted to operate there. The removal of the LTTE from the equation has created a void in Tamil politics and there is an unseemly scramble for filling it. But, to their horror, Tamil political parties have faced stiff competition from an unexpected quarter. The ruling UPFA has also joined the fray. They are all out to deny the government an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of Tamil civilians and eat into the traditional Tamil vote bank. They seem to think that the most effective way of elbowing out the government from the competition is to prevent IDPs from being kept in welfare centres, where they are beholden to the government.

If the Tamil politicians are really desirous of securing the release of IDPs, we repeat, they ought to prove without any doubt that the areas where the war displaced are to be resettled are free from danger and help expedite the resettlement programme in a tangible way instead of waxing eloquent from the refuge of Colombo.

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