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Holmes relies on SL Minister to translate IDPs’ complaints

[TamilNet, Monday, 23 February 2009 08:58 No Comment]

Visiting UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sir John Holmes, visited displaced camps in Vavuniyaa on Friday, accompanied by the Minister of Resettlement, Rishard Badurdeen and his security detail. Moreover, Sir Holmes relied on the Minister to translate the complaints of those people brave enough to speak up, humanitarian sources in Vavuniyaa said. When one woman complained her sons had been abducted by the Army, Minister Badurdeen told Sir Holmes that she said LTTE had abducted or shot her sons. Meanwhile, parliamentarians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had also protested the matter to Sir Holmes, sources said.

The presence of the Sri Lankan government minister and his security detail in the militarised displaced camps, ensured few of the traumatised displaced people dared to raise their concerns, humanitarian sources said.

More, despite arriving to examine the plight of displaced Tamil people, Sir John Holmes didn’t have an independent Tamil-English translator of the UN system, but relied upon the minister himself for translation, they said.

According to Colombo sources, at least one of four top officials of the hardline Mahinda Rajapaksea administration was always with Sir John Holmes while he was talking to government officials to ensure they didn’t share unhelpful independent views with the visiting Envoy.

One or more of Basil Rajapaksa, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Rishard Badurdeen and Palitha Kohonna, accompanied the Undersecretary, the sources said.

Sir Holmes was meanwhile quoted by some reporters as saying he was quite satisfied with the level of access he had been accorded in his fact-finding visit.

On the very day of Sir Holmes’ visit, Human Rights Watch condemned the incarceration of the displaced by the Sri Lankan government.

“The Sri Lankan government … has kept displaced persons who could describe the artillery bombardments locked up in camps and hospitals. It has traded the well-being of tens of thousands of Sri Lankan citizens for protection from international scrutiny. With civilian casualties mounting, it has sought to bury its abuses,” HRW said.

“Displaced persons are increasingly escaping from the battle zone to what they hope is safety within government-controlled areas. Instead, they are finding government internment centers masquerading as "welfare villages." While the government for security reasons should be screening new arrivals, it is instead secretly taking away LTTE suspects to arbitrary detention or possible enforced disappearances.”

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