SRI LANKA — KEY ISSUES
Post-Conflict Treatment of Tamil Civilians
Since the war ended mid-May, new Tamil grievances have emerged: More than 250,000 Tamil internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being held prisoner in government camps; resettlement of IDPS is being delayed; and children who served with the LTTE rebels are being detained and interrogated by security forces, instead of being treated as child victims of war.
President Rajapaksa promised all IDPs in camps will be resettled as soon as possible, but they must be kept in camps now for their own safety due to unexploded mines in the area and a lack of basic amenities in their home villages. The Secretary of Defence has said that all Tamil IDPs in the camps must be carefully investigated for past ties with the terrorist LTTE before being released.
Outstanding Tamil Grievances against the State
During the course of the war, human rights violations, ‘disappearances’, and threats against journalists almost exclusively affected Tamils. The Government has established numerous commissions, but they consistently have not identified the perpetrators of the crimes.
Decentralization of Political Power to the Provinces
State Programs in the North and East that Dilute the Tamil Majority with New Sinhalese Settlers
Rapid Peacetime Militarization
Just days after the end of the war, Army commander General Sarath Fonseka announced plans for a 50% increase in soldiers from 200,000 to 300,000 in order to “keep the [LTTE] rebels from re-building.” It is expected that the additional troops will be deployed primarily in the Tamil-dominated regions to enforce peace. This policy of ‘peace through power’ is more likely to excaccerbate Tamils’ existing feelings of repression and to spark renewed violence, than it is to build the foundation for long-term peace.
The government maintains strict control over the media and mass information for security reasons. It controls who can be a journalist by issuing official credentials, restricts where journalists can work and whom they can talk to, and maintains a very broad view of ‘traitor-type’ statements. In recent years, statements supporting a political solution over a military solution to the conflict were deemed a detriment to the war effort and therefore unacceptable.
Journalists who express views contrary to the Government on issues related to the war, security and Tamil population have been harassed, beaten, tortured, given death threats, and even killed. Culprits are never caught, so act with impunity.
In a climate of fear, it is risky to advocate any options for stabilizing the peace that do not echo the government’s militarization plan.
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It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. — Eleanor Roosevelt