NFR wishes to draw attention to the number of feature articles published by print and web media on the situation of the 110 families who lived in the Menik Farm IDP camp and threats faced by the journalists while covering the relocation.
The articles provides a cogent account of the current situation where the State appears to show the world that it is going ahead with the resettlement of the IDPs of the region expeditiously, but is not the case. This report exposes the fact that the government and the military are carrying out a resettlement program where people are being taken, not to their original homes, but to lands that have no infrastructure; nor are the people being equipped with the basic necessities of life. It is troubling to note that these displaced people are taken to uninhabited areas while the military continues to occupy their homes.
NfR is also deeply concerned that the government and the military continue to bar journalists from accessing these places as reported in the articles. Sri Lanka’s war was fought for the large part without credible, independent witnesses. Both government and LTTE troops have been able to get away with the crimes they committed because anyone who dared report what they actually saw or heard were intimidated, murdered or otherwise silenced. Information received by NfR confirmed that number of local and foreign media personal was barred by the military who visited the area.
In one instance after stopping the journalists entering the refugee camp the military officer in charge of Suriyapuram camp in Nandikadal has threatened them not to write anything detrimental to them and has warned not to write anything against the camp and the IDP grievances but to ‘mind her own business’. They were forced to delete the photos taken, according to journalist Nirmala Kanangara.
It seems that even three years later, the government is unwilling to let the world hear about the goings-on in those lands, which are now virtually strongholds of the military. What does the government fear? Why were these journalists not allowed to visit Menik Farm, which is now completely bare? Since there were people living in the camp until the end of September, we can be certain that it is not an area that is scattered with land-mines. And if the land to where these people have been moved has no amenities, what was the indecent hurry to move them out of Menik Camp?
The war is over and this is a good test of the government’s claim to be transparent about resettlement. To prevent journalists from travelling to these regions and talking to the affected people smacks of an attempt to hide the truth.
NfR calls on the government to treat these families with dignity and to keep its promise of transparency; allow independent journalists, and not those who are its stooges, free access to these lands, so that Sri Lankans’ and the world will at least now get a balanced idea of what is going on.
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka
Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)
NfR - Net working for rights in Sri Lanka -Exile network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka
Press release/ 07 Oct. 2012