The IDP issue
Sri Lanka's Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have
earned much media publicity. Hardly a day passes without some
reference to them in the international media is made. In actual
fact, it is an issue overused.
Some of the stories about these IDPs are the result of a
general humanitarian interest in their fate. But unfortunately,
the same cannot be said of most stories, which thrive on the
plight of these hapless persons in order to pursue various
political and other motives.
It is necessary to place the issue in its proper context. Let
us see the basic facts.
Firstly, one must ask how they became IDPs. They did not
become IDPs as a result of governmental action. They became IDPs
since the LTTE kept them as a human shield and chased them from
place to place during the last phase of the Eelam war. Not only
were they driven away from their original settlements, they were
also used as a human shield to attack the security forces of the
Secondly, it was during the end of the war, when the LTTE
strength was running out that they could enter the government
controlled areas amidst heavy odds. Could any one forget how
ammunition-filled trucks were sent to be exploded amidst
hundreds of innocent civilians edging towards security of the
The influx of the civilians was colossal. It was nearly
300,000. To be more accurate, the figure was around 280,000. The
influx of even 100,000 in the course of a week or two is
unprecedented in history. However, Sri Lanka did provide
shelter, attended to the sick and the feeble, the elderly and
the orphaned in double quick time. Huge welfare villages were
opened to accommodate them.
These camps were maintained with adequate health and sanitary
safeguards so that the health conditions and nutrition standards
of the inmates continually improved.
Thirdly, the resettlement program was worked out
expeditiously and a 180-day deadline was set. There was no
precedent anywhere in the world where such huge numbers were to
be resettled in their original settlements in such a short span
Fourthly, this entailed the de-mining of vast tracts of land
including farmland and the building of physical and social
infrastructure being destroyed almost completely by the three
Sri Lanka being a poor developing country this de-mining task
was a colossal challenge. However, with the assistance of
friendly countries new technology has been introduced to the
de-mining process which has now accelerated its pace.
As it stands today the government has resettled over 100,000
in their original home villages. Not only that. These
rehabilitated settlements are equipped with modern social and
physical infrastructure. Further, there is also a livelihood
These are achievements any nation could be proud of. The
international community should recognize Sri Lanka's
achievements and assist it to complete the task of speedy
It is most unfortunate that certain powers misled by enemy
propaganda cannot see or comprehend the true picture. Instead of
assisting, they are placing obstacles by tarnishing the good
name of the country and threatening it with punitive action, as
if it had been at guilt.
The irony in this situation is that even countries with a
track record of violations of human rights and practice of
genocide the world over throughout decades are calling on Sri
Lanka to 'behave.'
Fortunately Sri Lanka is not alone. Its friends have not
abandoned her. This was amply demonstrated at the United Nations
Human Rights Council which overwhelmingly rejected a bid to
condemn Sri Lanka for alleged human rights violations. These
true friends are doing much to ease the burden of the IDPs and
to provide support for those that settle back in their original
places of residence.
The government has been engaged in a concerted effort to help
our misguided friends to understand the reality and get their
The victory Sri Lanka has won over terrorism is a victory for
the worldwide war on terror. Hence, it is essential that
everyone cooperates in the struggle to provide a decent
livelihood for all the displaced within the shortest possible
timeframe. We remain optimistic that with the assistance of the
international community and the dedication and commitment of our
people our resettlement targets could be attained in the
shortest possible timeframe.