Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: North East Joint Humanitarian Update - Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya, and Trincomalee Districts Report No. 09, 12 - 25 Sep 2009


I. Situation Overview & highlights

- On 14 September, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe rejected claims made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillai, that the displaced people in Sri Lanka are being kept in internment camps, as opposed to what the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) defines as welfare villages. Minister Samarasinghe was addressing the 12th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, being held from 14 September to 2 October.

- Between 17-19 September, the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, was in Sri Lanka to address urgent concerns regarding the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), political reconciliation and the establishment of a mechanism of accountability for alleged human rights violations during the war. The Under-Secretary General visited the north, observing reconstruction work in Mannar District and IDP camps in Jaffna and Vavuniya districts. In meetings with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as senior GoSL and military officials, he focused on freedom of movement for IDPs, increased returns before the monsoon season, greater transparency and consultation with the international community and the need for a sustainable, just solution to the ethnic conflict.

- On 18 September, UNICEF Communications Officer James Elder left Sri Lanka. Mr. Elder was under a GoSL order to leave the country, following comments he had made to the media about the plight of IDPs, especially women and children.

- On 21 September, UNDP launched a programme to provide important legal documents IDPs may have lost due to the conflict or the 2004 Tsunami. As part of UNDP's Equal Access to Justice Project, the programme will conduct mobile clinics where IDPs can obtain all their lost documents, such as national identity cards, birth certificates and land titles etc., within a day. The lack of identity cards and other legal documents severely hampers IDP resettlement and family reunification.

- A 21 September media release from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights (MDMHR) stated that the National Framework Proposal on the Reintegration of Ex-Combatants into Civilian Life in Sri Lanka would be finalised by the end of this month. The Steering Committee developing the proposal includes representatives from the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Vocational and Technical Training, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare, and others. The ILO and UNDP are providing technical expertise. The IOM, ICRC, several national and international nongovernmental organisations, civil society organisations and private sector entities are also providing technical, conceptual and operational support to the process.

- Between 23-26 September, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs, Dr. Walter Kaelin, was in Sri Lanka. His mission continued recent high-level UN engagement with the GoSL on issues of humanitarian support to IDPs, resettlement, reintegration and political accountability. While in the country, the Special Representative held discussions with the chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Northern Development Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, the Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Rishad Bathiudeen, the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, the Attorney General Mohan Peiris, the Peace Secretariat for Muslims, donor representatives and civil society groups.

- On 25 September, the Special Representative travelled to Mannar District, where he saw several demining sites. Government officials indicated that the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) would complete clearance of the massive rice bowl area in a month, allowing 17,000 IDPs to return in time to begin cultivation during the forthcoming Maha season. Thereafter, the Special Representative visited Menik Farm in Vavuniya District and was briefed on the GoSL's decongestion and resettlement plans.

- On 25 September, the GoSL sought UN assistance to establish transitional camps in Jaffna and Mannar districts for IDPs currently housed at Menik Farm, before the monsoon rains arrive. The request for assistance was conveyed by the Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Rishad Bathiudeen, to the visiting UN Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs, Dr. Walter Kaelin. It was stated that the relocation of IDPs to transitional camps would not only help them avoid the extreme weather conditions brought on by the monsoons, but would also facilitate IDP releases and resettlement.

- On 27 September, the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Major General Daya Ratnayake stated that the GoSL has completed profiles of over 10,000 alleged LTTE cadres under its care. The profiles, containing details of the individuals' educational background, alleged association with the LTTE and vocational training requirements, will be used for rehabilitation purposes.

- UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution Philip Alston has expressed his doubts over the independence of the GoSL's verdict that the Channel 4 execution footage was a fake and doctored video clip. He has called for an independent inquiry into the video.


- Between 14-24 September, a total of 2,733 IDPs from camps in Vavuniya District were sent back to Jaffna District for release/resettlement. Some 1,600 IDPs returned to their homes or went to host families. The rest are accommodated at the Kaithady University Hostel and Mirusuvil Church transit sites. Most of the released IDPs and those staying with relatives or friends are originally from the Jaffna islands.

- On 17 September, the visiting UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, arrived in Jaffna District as part of his tour of the northern region. He was accompanied by UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) Neil Buhne and UNICEF, UNHCR and OCHA representatives. The team visited IDP transit camps at the Kopay Teacher Training College and the Kaithady University Hostel, demining sites in the Jaffna rice bowl area and the Tellipalai Rehabilitation Centre for alleged ex-LTTE members.


- On 17 September, 123 IDPs were relocated from camps in Batticaloa District to the Kiliveddy transit site in Trincomalee District. On 24 September, a further 337 IDPs from Batticaloa were transferred to the same transit site in Trincomalee.


- On 18 September, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Family Health Bureau of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition and the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPASL), opened five family health clinics in five zones of Menik Farm. The family health clinics will provide antenatal and postnatal examinations, voluntary family planning, emergency deliveries by skilled birth attendants and psychosocial counselling, among other services. With an estimated 5,000 pregnant women in the camps, 400 out of whom will give birth within the next four weeks, the family health clinics will play a critical role in safeguarding the health of these women.

- The national press reported a public protest on 18 September outside the Vavuniya Divisional Secretariat office, following the Vavuniya Government Agent's decision to suspend the acceptance of applications from people seeking the release of their relatives among IDPs held in camps. The GoSL has advertised for requests from relatives of IDPs willing to accommodate them in their homes. In discussions with the visiting UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, President Mahinda Rajapkase had indicated that IDP releases to host families were delayed by the poor public response.

- On 23 September, a situation of unrest occurred at Poonthotham IDP camp, when military and police authorities removed an IDP from the camp. Civilian unrest riot lasted three hours, with IDPs throwing stones at military and police personnel and their vehicle. Rocks were also thrown at an INGO vehicle. Calm returned after the authorities brought the IDP back to the camp.

- On 26 September, a military spokesman reported that at least three people, including an eight-year-old child, were wounded when soldiers opened fire at a group of IDPs attempting to escape from Menik Farm. Soldiers opened fire when IDPs are said to have thrown stones. The military spokesman also claimed that an IDP had tried to throw a grenade. The wounded were admitted to hospital. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian, Shivashakthi Anandan, however claimed that the IDPs were only moving from one zone to another to collect firewood.


- On 16 September, the national press reported that the Government of Australia will donate US$5 million through international organisations, such as UNHCR and IOM, to support resettlement in Sri Lanka. This funding will support the processing of documentation to facilitate IDP returns, reintegration and assistance to host families.

- On 23 September, the national media reported that the Japanese Government will allocate Rs.263 million for the provision of drinking water to IDPs in the northern region.

- As of 30 September, the CHAP 2009 for Sri Lanka is 53% funded, with US$143,863,092 received out of the revised mid-year requirement of US$270,055,118. In addition, US$9,345,325 has been pledged by various donors.