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Sri Lankans in Crisis – the Concern of all other Sri Lankans
A statement by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
 
CEYLON 090507-1
May 7, 2009

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] 
Our impatience with the intended intervention of the international community and activities of the Tamil Diaspora in other parts of the world should not divert the attention of concerned Sri Lankans from the dire needs of our fellow Sri Lankans restricted to IDP camps and the ‘No fire zone”, here at home.

The refusal of the LTTE to permit the civilians to leave the “No fire zone”, and even holding them to ransom, brings an even greater responsibility on the GoSL to ensure the protection and safe passage of these remnant Sri Lankan civilians. The GoSL should consequently exhaust all other methods of pressure through negotiations, diplomacy and International law that will save the civilians and also neutralise the LTTE. Through such a course of action the GoSL will prove its political prowess and be able to fulfil its dual responsibilities by all the people of this country.

The urgent task at hand with regard to the IDPs now is to facilitate the recovery of dignity and the return to normalcy of these thousands of fellow Sri Lankans, crushed and deprived for years. Such a task need not be incompatible with security safeguards. In fact the implementation of such a transformative policy will in the long run build trust and reduce the need for more security safeguards. If not, we run the risk of reverting to the cycle of increased fear, increased suspicion and increased security.

Consequently we require a visible shift from sympathy for the IDPs to an affirmation of their rights and dignity as Sri Lankans. These persons simply cannot lose their rights as Sri Lankans because they were trapped under the LTTE in the Vanni. In fact they crossed over at great risk in a courageous demonstration of their right to movement as Sri Lankans , and this must be recognised. Also, the travails of war and displacement that prevents them from producing documentary evidence does not make them any less Sri Lankan than the rest of us. What seems unclear at present, however, is whether they have rights now or whether they are required to remain under collective suspicion indefinitely till they somehow acquire their rights by proving they are different.

This shift should be accompanied by a multi-task approach towards recovery and normalcy as against a phase-by-phase approach. Intelligence screening cannot be avoided and must be done professionally and swiftly. But counselling is equally important.
These Sri Lankans have been subject to severe trauma in what they have seen and suffered, and remain in their silent world with questions about loved ones, belongings and an uncertain future; and here too they are in need of professional help.

These two priorities of screening and counselling should also run concurrently with the process of de-mining and the building of houses and infrastructure, with the people being released in batches to return to their homes and villages. As part of this process, identifiable LTTE cadres should be separated for professionally planned programmes of rehabilitation.

Such a clear policy will establish the bona fides of the GoSL and send a clear message to all. Then the temporary hardships and restrictions of the camps will become bearable as the people will see an end to their misery.

But if a lasting solution to our larger and more tragic conflict is ever to be reached we need to engage in two more crucial shifts. The first is to overcome the tendency to see ghosts of the LTTE in every Tamil. If not, an entire community will be held under surveillance for the rest of their lives, some of whom will inevitably be driven into the arms of the next Tamil militant resurgence. The second is the need for a just and speedy political response to the grievances of the Tamil people. These grievances must be heard and can best be articulated by a cross-section of independent Tamil leadership.

I appeal to His Excellency the President and to all other political leaders to work together to initiate these shifts for the good of all who belong to this beautiful and resourceful land.

With Peace and Blessings
+ Duleep Colombo.
7th May 2009