Thursday, November 05, 2009

US House pressures Sri Lanka on camps

The US House of Representatives urged Sri Lanka's government Wednesday to guarantee the safety and quick release of some 300,000 Tamils and other war-displaced people currently held in camps.

By an overwhelming 421-1 vote, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution that calls on the authorities in Colombo to help the populations of widely condemned, tightly guarded camps return to their homes.

The measure urges Sri Lanka's government to turn over the operation of the camps to civilians, and allow day-to-day access to the camps for the Red Cross, non-governmental groups, and others who care for internally displaced people.

It also calls on the government to allow an independent assessment of charges of large numbers of deaths, rampant disease, poor sanitation and poor health care in the camps and a plan to remedy the issues.

The proposal also asks the government to establish "reasonable conditions" to allow non-Sri-Lanka agencies access to the inhabitants and to ensure reconstruction of areas devastated by the country's internal strife.

And it urges the Tamil people "to continue to be patient while the government reestablishes normalcy" and calls on the government to make headway on political reforms to address the Tamils' "political concerns."

Sri Lanka says it needs time to weed out suspected Tamil Tiger fighters from the camps to prevent a revival of the rebels' four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland, one of Asia's longest and bloodiest conflicts.

The government has vowed to re-settle all people displaced during the decades of war by January, but international aid and human rights groups have questioned its commitment to the welfare of Tamil civilians.

Sri Lanka has also restricted access of aid agencies and journalists to the camps.

The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May with the annihilation of the rebel leadership.


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