|Ever since the end of the final Eelam War, in
the lagoons of Nanthikadal in May, the focus has
shifted from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) to the fate of hundreds of thousands of
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in
makeshift camps in the North.
Just as much as
there was a hue and cry about civilian casualties in
the final stages of the battle with the Tigers,
there was perhaps a greater fuss about the treatment
allegedly meted out to the IDPs in these camps.
Assorted western governments voiced their opinions
strongly, and advocated greater freedom for the
IDPs, and greater transparency in dealing with them.
Many were the international organisations-including
the United Nations itself, which joined in this
cacophony of protest.
Colombo responded by saying that it was doing its
best with a difficult task that was thrust on them
overnight, but was firm in its resolve that IDPs
would not be released at the behest of external
forces, because it was unwise to do so, simply from
a security perspective.
Sri Lankaís steadfast stand was that IDPs could be
released on fulfilling two conditions: When they
established their bona fides that they were not
hardcore terrorists, and also, when the areas they
were to re-settle in were declared safe from
This week, the government announced some welcome
news: The IDPs were granted freedom of movement, and
given the option of moving out of the camps, to stay
with their kith and kin, or to remain in the
shelters provided to them. Many, we understand,
opted for the former.
Already, the move has been welcomed by the United
Nations, Britain and Amnesty International, among
the more vociferous of Colomboís critics. Others, we
are certain, will join the chorus. This is as it
It is about time that the international community
comes to terms with the fact that Sri Lanka has
comprehensively defeated, arguably, the most
ruthless terrorist organisation in the world. It is
also high time that they recognise that the need is
for them to now work with Colombo, not against it.
In fact, they have been trying hard to do the
latter. Visas for prominent Sri Lankans have been
denied, Colombo was prevented from hosting the 2011
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM),
and there were many other not so diplomatic punitive
Unfortunately, none of these gestures succeeded.
Creditably, Colombo has not wilted under the
tremendous pressures it was subjected to, and it has
taken the decision to allow IDPs freedom of movement
on its own terms.
Sri Lanka must now be bold enough to demonstrate
to the world at large that its intentions, vis-a-vis
the IDPs, were sincere and there is no better way to
show that other than by affording them reasonable
living conditions and speedy redress to their
legitimate social and political grievances.
That would be the best response to those who branded
this country and its leaders as racists, and accused
Sri Lanka of propagating genocide. It is time that
this nation graduates from Paradise Lost to Paradise
Regained. Our leaders, we hope, will be courageous
enough to attempt that.
Unknown to most of us, and
confounding the frequently culpable Health
authorities, an epidemic of swine flu seems to have
stealthily crept up on Sri Lanka. A few dozen have
been afflicted with the disease, and at least half a
dozen deaths have been reported.
We must pose the perennial question as to whether
enough was done by Health authorities to combat this
menace. We ask this question because, unlike the
dengue epidemic, this is not an epidemic that was
peculiar to the tropics; this was a global disease,
and there was enough warning that it was on its way.
We recall, regrettably, that when these warnings
were pointed out to our irrepressible Health
Minister, his proud boast was that swine flu would
never arrive in this country, because of the special
precautions he had put in place.
We do not wish to quarrel with the good minister
on that score, because he has enough egg on his face
already. It suffices to say that none are so blind
as those who do not wish to see. And, with regard to
how the Ministry of Health is dealing with swine
flu, it must surely be a case of the blind leading
For instance, when Central Provincial authorities
wanted schools closed there to prevent a swine flu
epidemic, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha was
up in arms, protesting about partially completed
term tests! And, surprise, surprise, there was
Minister de Silva offering him support!
We can only hope and pray that the swine flu
epidemic that has arrived in Sri Lanka, will wane
without a heavy toll. To ask for anything more- with
a minister like this and officials that match him
blunder for blunder, would not be optimistic, it
would be downright foolish!