IDP camps, second to country’s security
victories, both in the battlefield against the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and in Geneva, against a Resolution at the
United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC), when some countries
were calling for investigations into alleged war crimes, appears
to have ruffled more than a few feathers.
Now, we hear of requests-again, mostly from local and
international non-governmental organisations as well as some
western governments -for unrestricted access to the camps
housing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
We also have the main Opposition party in the country, the
United National Party (UNP), demanding that the Emergency and
the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) be repealed, apparently,
in response to government claims that terrorism has been
eradicated from the nation.
Undoubtedly, Sri Lanka is concerned about the circumstances
which the IDPs are faced with. There are reports that conditions
are not ideal and that, there are many shortcomings in the
facilities provided in the camps housing these victims of the
LTTE. This is purely a reason owing to the multitude that
inhabit the camps.
We also know that, these shortcomings have been readily
acknowledged by the government, which has called for national
and international assistance to improve conditions in these
We do know that, the basic needs of the IDPs - food, shelter
and sanitation - are being provided and that, no one is dying of
starvation or due to lack of healthcare facilities. It is no
easy task to provide all the needs of 250,000 people, who have
been uprooted from their homes within a matter of weeks, and it
does appear as if rehabilitation efforts are under way and
progressing at breakneck pace.
What those who call for ‘unrestricted access’ to the camps
fail to recognise - or do not wish to concede - is that, there
is another aspect to allowing such freedom of movement: vital
and significant security considerations.
It is no secret that, several top LTTE leaders have been
located within the camps for IDPs and even Velupillai
Prabhakaran’s parents were discovered there. Most of these
leaders who fled the military offensive, disguised themselves as
civilians, and did not opt to turn themselves in these camps -
they were only detected by Military Intelligence.
These are persons with very dangerous potential. If they are
allowed to go free, they could be future leaders of Velupillai
Prabhakaran’s terror outfit, which held this country to ransom
for the past 30 years.
Also, these are persons who possess vital intelligence
regarding the LTTE’s terror network in Colombo and elsewhere in
the country. To cite just one example, we now know, from
information provided by surrendered Tiger cadres, that a Senior
Army Officer had links with the Tigers.
So, should we say ‘open sesame’ to all these international
busybodies at our doorstep, allow them - and the IDPs - the
freedom to roam as they please, especially, when already, there
are reports that, some NGOs have been instrumental in
‘smuggling’ Tiger cadres out of the camps?
Clearly, any talk of ‘unrestricted access’ to the IDP camps
must be subject to and secondary to security considerations. Not
to do so - and thereby, lose vital intelligence that could
strengthen national security, after a hard fought 30-year war
against terrorism - would not be just naive, it would be
We all wish for the IDPs to be re-settled, not only with the
best possible facilities, but with honour and dignity. They have
waited 30 years to be liberated from the clutches of terror.
Unfortunately though, those who now clamour for ‘unrestricted
access’ to them, don’t appear to have the patience to wait for
even 30 days, before proper security measures are put in place,
so that, there will be more freedom of movement for the IDPs.
Or, is it just that they don’t want to wait?
Have we Sri Lankans lost the concepts of accountability and
responsibility in our day to day activities?
We pose the question because many of the newspaper headlines
over the past week suggest that, we as a nation, appear quite
ready to pass the buck, and no one appears to be accountable for
his or her actions, resulting in many tragedies or
This week alone, we heard of how part of the southern expressway
collapsed, killing an innocent youth. We also heard of how the
Dengue epidemic is raging throughout the country, with the
Ministry of Health blaming everyone, but themselves, for the 90
deaths that have occurred so far. Then, we were also informed
that the infamous ‘hedging’ deal is being tried again before the
Each of these events highlight the fact that, Public Officers
are seldom, if ever, held responsible for what they do, and
rarely, have to face the consequences for their acts of
commission or omission.
This is also a reason why public interest litigation reached
a peak over the past few years, with officials often earning
strong condemnation from the Courts of Law. But should we always
await litigation, before mending our ways?
This country now has a new sense of pride, after defeating
terrorism. That alone, propels it to the threshold of greatness,
if only each and every one of us decides to be more responsible
in what we do, and how we do it. There cannot be a more
opportune time than now, to make that change.