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Sep-29-2012 19:19printcommentsVideo

Tamil Militants in Prison in Sri Lanka - Are They Still Alive?

Sri Lanka's Controversial Menik Farm IDP Camp Closes- As POW's Remain Missing

One of the camps used to hold Tamils after the end of the decades-long war in 2009.
One of the camps used to hold Tamils after the end of the decades-long war in 2009. Courtesy: Green Left

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - Very serious questions about captured Tamil Tiger fighters linger in the wake of the violent end of Sri Lanka's long-running civil war.

While it may never be possible to determine an accurate assessment of Tamil casualties, it may not be too late to save many who languish today in prison camps located in secured areas inaccessible to family or media.

That is what people located on the ground there have said for years. There are photos of imprisoned Tamils and there are prisons and prison camps that are not undisclosed, like Menik Farm, the IDP Camp that will be closed following its final release of prisoners by tomorrow, 30 September 2012. My friend Muthamizh Vendhan in Chennai, sent these videos to our newsroom several weeks ago and while I meant to publish them then, I realize now that this day when a notorious prison camp is closing, has perhaps even more significance.

When the government violence against in Sri Lanka finally subsided, 300,000 Tamil Hindu and Christian Sri Lankans qualified as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Those who had survived were transferred to camps in Vavuniya District and imprisoned against their will. This process, together with the conditions inside the camps and the slow progress of resettlement in 2009 became a focus of a great deal of criticism from inside and outside Sri Lanka.

By the 7th of May in 2009, Sri Lanka announced plans to resettle 80% of the IDPs by the end of 2009. But them when the war was over, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured foreign officials that most of the IDPs would be resettled in accordance with the 180 day plan. The camps were opened on 1 December 2009 but IDP's were only offered limited freedom. The

Then on 29 December 2009 the government of Sri Lankan (GoSL) announced that there was no deadline for the resettlement of the IDPs. The pace of resettlement increased in 2010 and by July 2011, most the IDPs had been released or returned to their places of origin, Wikipedia states, with about 7,500 still living in the camps. These quite interestingly, are people from areas in Mullaitivu District, which is heavily contaminated with landmines. That sad aspect of war goes on killing long after the battlefield goes quiet.

The article Sri Lanka: A nightmare for Tamils by Ash Pemberton for Green Left states:

    Tamil political prisoners also face harsher treatment, with the defence secretary ordering their transfer to the notorious Boosa prison in Galle, said on July 25. The government has reneged on its promise to release details of all Tamil prisoners, with claims of secret detention camps holding Tamil prisoners of war.

    While there has been some international criticism of the Sri Lankan government, it has sought to deflect this through its “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC), composed of government-appointed officials, ostensibly to investigate claims of human rights abuses during the war.

    However, its report largely exonerated the government and talked up “reconciliation” between the two sides.

    Academic RM Karthick said at on June 18: “The real message of the devisors of the LLRC seems to be that Tamils have learnt a lesson and must reconcile to the fact that they are a minority at the tender mercies of the state, not a nationality, and that the there is no imagination beyond the unitary Sri Lanka.”

    However, the underlying cause of the conflict -- ethnic discrimination -- still remains.

This war will not really be over until all information is released on missing people. We have reported many times the terrible cruelty suffered by Tamils in the final stages of the war, which wound down just as the summer of 2009 began heating up. Now the GoSL needs to keep moving forward and do everything possible to restore balance, and that again, is all about accountability and full disclosure.




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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.