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Internally displaced people live under tension in Sri Lanka

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Law and Society Trust (LST), a FORUM-ASIA member in Sri Lanka, visited Trincomalee district of the country in October to highlight the issues of concern people face every day. The report of this visit indicates that the district “remains heavily militarised and tense”.
(Bangkok) Law and Society Trust (LST), a FORUM-ASIA member in Sri Lanka, visited Trincomalee district of the country in October to gain a better understanding of its human rights situation. The report by Ruki Fernando, an LST staff who led the mission, released on 14 November indicates that the district “remains heavily militarised and tense”.

Fernando said that in 85 km between Habarana and Trincomalee where he travelled by bus, he was “stopped at five checkpoints, where we had to get down with all our bags and walk a few hundred meters in the hot sun”. Despite the presence of security forces, according to the Trincomalee office of the Human Rights Commission, abductions and disappearances are reported at daily basis: 24 persons in August and 39 in September.

Ruki Fernando met officials and staff of the local government,,Human Rights Commission’s district office, UN agencies, international and local humanitarian NGOs, and human rights defenders and internally displaced people (IDP).

The IDP were forced to move out of their homes as they were in areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).“More than any assistance, we want to go home – if we can go back to our homeland in Sampoor, we can live on our own, without depending on government or non-governmental organisations (NGOs),” one of the IDP told the mission.

People who returned to their homes leaving IDP camps also face problems: killings, loss of livelihood and housing. The report highlights 11 key issues covering security and protection, harassment by military, restrictions on livelihood, lack of assistance, taking over of land of displaced people and plans for returns without consultation with IDPs.

Though officials of the regional human rights commission, UN, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and International Committee of the Red Cross that are monitoring the situation and making some interventions, Fernando noted that people he met had yet to benefit from their actions. He also pointed out that especially protection and security has been less accessible to people, because humanitarian agencies lack of information of government plans on resettlement.