Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fact finding mission to Trincomalee - Apr 2007

Originally published


A team from the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the International Movement Against Racism and Discrimination visited the Trincomalee District from April 23 to 27 2007 to assess the humanitarian and human rights situation. The team visited internally displaced person (IDP) sites and other affected communities in Trincomalee Town, Mutur, Kilivetti, Lingapuram, and Kanguveli. In addition, the team spoke to individuals from local organizations, INGOs and the Government. The following report is one in a series of reports by human rights groups highlighting the human rights and humanitarian issues arising out of the upsurge in violence during 2006-7.

Executive Summary

This report examines several issues regarding the situation in Trincomalee, including security, civilian protection, displacement, resettlement and preparedness on the part of the authorities and I/NGOs. While the overall security situation appears to have improved and the number of killings has decreased, the Tamil community continues to face multiple threats including abductions, extortions and killings. This sustains and strengthens a climate of fear, thwarting resettlement and normalization. Human rights groups in the district noted that the number of killings, disappearances, number of IDPs and threats to civilians in general is only an indicator of the actual situation. This is largely due to the fear of reporting and the subsequent repercussions by armed actors as well as the lack of confidence in the existing structures dealing adequately with human rights violations. In such a militarized and insecure context, many of the incidents are unreported. The few who work in documenting and addressing human rights violations have to work in difficult and trying circumstances.

The report also highlights the humanitarian situation in parts of the Trincomalee district, with the absence of a systematic disaster response structure resulting in affected communities not having the most basic of services. This problem is compounded by the fact that more IDPs from Batticaloa are expected to return in the near future. It remains to be seen as to whether the coercive methods used to return IDPs in the recent past, as witnessed with the return of IDPs from Batticaloa on March 15, will be a recurrent trend in the future. Whilst there is a clear desire on the part of the Government to speed up resettlement so as to demonstrate the restoration of normalcy, there are conflicting signs as well, indicating that the Government is also apprehensive of allowing resettlement in all parts of the district. The proposed BOI scheme for Special Economic Zones in parts of Trincomalee has compounded fears that the Government is planning a re-development of Trincomalee district that will have significant implications for the demographic map of the district. The report also points to problems that have been noted in other districts and fact-finding reports, including the lack of preparedness, ethnicisation of humanitarian assistance and gaps in assistance systems.