Itís time to help Lanka, not oppose

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 landmines.

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 should be.

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 measures.
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.

Blind leading the blind

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 the blind.

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!