“There seems to be no reasonable grounds to deprive the rights of citizens to the IDPs. If any of them are suspected of any commission of crimes, the law in the country provides adequate powers to the government for dealing with the problem.”
The Indian Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, expressed his displeasure about the steps taken by the Sri Lankan government to rehabilitate the displaced Sri Lankan Tamils. In a recent interview he said:
“I am not happy over the steps taken so far by Sri Lanka to rehabilitate the Tamils who have become refugees in their own country.”
“The efforts are not enough,” he declared.
Meanwhile, the JVP, a Southern based political party that has about 26 members in parliament, stated that the condition of the internally displaced persons in the camps is unsatisfactory and that the suffering caused in the camps could make the people, who have already suffered under the LTTE, bitter. They also complained that they are given no access to the camps and that even providing assistance collected from people for the use of the IDPs has proved difficult.
The leading opposition party, the UNP, also repeatedly demanded access to the camps and condemned the continued denial by the government. Several Tamil political leaders have also repeatedly criticised the government’s policies regarding the IDPs.
When interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service, one of the government ministers said that no access is provided for opposition political parties to the camps at the moment and their assistance will be sought when needed.
An application by a family of whom four members are living in separate camps that they be allowed to join them was objected to by the Attorney General on behalf of the government. The family moved the court to allow a 13-year-old girl suffering from injuries to be allowed to be examined by a specialist doctor. Despite of the Attorney General’s claim that she had already been brought to a hospital the court granted the application for her to be produced before a specialist, this is according to a report published today, (3rd July) by the BBC Sinhala Service.
It is not clear as to which grounds of law the Attorney General’s Department based itself when objecting to these applications. The AG is the chief legal officer who should advise the government purely on the basis on law.
There seems to be no reasonable grounds to deprive the rights of citizens to the IDPs. If any of them are suspected of any commission of crimes, the law in the country provides adequate powers to the government for dealing with the problem. The real problem is regarding a large population who are admitted to be innocent citizens being deprived of rights they would otherwise enjoy.
In the absence of reasonable grounds for deprivation of the rights of the citizen there is speculation of political purposes that are causing such obstacles and the denial of such right to access. Naturally, a suspicion that these IDPs are the subject of various political schemes builds resentment.
Another real problem is the absence of transparency and accountability regarding all matters relating to IDPs. The Chief Justice who retired last month stated a few days before his retirement that the IDPs do not have protection under the normal laws of the country. That a section of Sri Lankan citizens do not have the protection of the law is a serious concern. This week an international crisis group issued a report pointing out the serious defects of the judicial and legal process in Sri Lanka. It stated that Sri Lanka’s courts have been politicised and the rights of the people are thereby compromised.
Last month the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) issued a report after a visit by the organisation that Sri Lanka’s judiciary, the legal profession and the media are facing peril. In a lengthy report the IBAHRI, the foremost lawyer’s association in the world, analysed in great detail the threats faced by the judicial system over a considerable period of time, attacks and intimidation on lawyers which obstructs their independent functioning as well as the assassination of and attacks on journalists. Even last week, another lady journalist complained of being abducted and threatened to give up her profession.
Despite of local and international criticism the deterioration of the protection that should be available to citizens takes place continuously. The arrogant disregard for public opinion expressed by the local political parties, neighbouring governments, like that of India and all others has created a situation in which almost all avenues for seeking redress for grievances have been closed.