By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – On Monday, the Menki Farm displacement camp’s remaining 1,160 Sri Lankan Tamils departed. At one point, the Menik Farm lodged 300,000 people and was considered the world’s largest camp for internally displaced people (IDP).
In 2009, the Sri Lankan government opened the 700-hectare Menik Farm in northern Sri Lanka as an IDP location.
According to Reuters, after approximately three years succeeding the Sri Lankan civil war, authorities have closed Menik Farm, which previously housed tens of thousands of war-affected civilians. When it the displacement camp shut down on Monday, there were 346 people left.
Although the United Nations (UN) has approved of the closing of the displacement camp, it cautioned that many still need help to restore their lives.
“This is a milestone event towards ending a chapter of displacement in Sri Lanka some three years after the civil war which ended in May 2009,” said Subinay Nandy, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Sri Lanka, this past Tuesday.
According to BBC, some are “left in the jungle” with no resources to rebuild their homes and lives. One hundred and ten (110) families from Keppapilavu village said that they were prevented from returning home and were subsequently redirected to patches of vacant jungle area instead.
However, Sri Lanka’s army spokesman Vijtha Ravipriya rejected such claims and believed that most people were “very happy” with the help they received from the army. “People have to go to their villages. The military is helping them renovate and reconstruct their homes so the people are very happy,” said Mr. Ravipriya.
Furthermore, erected army camps were only designated on government land. “I categorically reject the complaints. Some areas are no-go to prevent unnecessary accidents. There are only very limited areas of army camps and they are on government land,” continued Mr. Ravipriya.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, a politician from the small and radical Tamil National People’s Front party has been publicizing the situation of the displaced persons. “The government hurried to empty the Menik Farm camp because of the universal periodic review on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation coming up soon in Geneva,” Mr. Ponnambalam relayed to BBC.
Civil society activists estimate that about 26,000 people remain displaced by military occupation of their land in Sri Lanka.
For further information, please see:
Tamil News – Sri Lanka: Displaced Tamil families ‘left in jungle’ – 28 September 2012
BBC – Sri Lanka: Displaced Tamil families ‘left in jungle’ – 27 September 2012
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Sri Lanka’s displacement chapter nears end with closure of Menik Farm – 27 September 2012
Reuters – U.N. welcomes closure of controversial Sri Lankan “war” camp – 26 September 2012