By Colombo Telegraph –
“Blake recalled that, as Ambassador, he told GSL officials that the U.S. would have difficulty funding the long-term presence of IDPs in camps; it would be perceived as supporting incarceration. Rajapaksa stressed that it had been only three months; in the East, the first batch of IDP returns did not take place for nine months. Blake pointed to the barbed wire around the camp as evidence that camp residents could not leave. Rajapaksa disputed that assessment. The barbed wire, he said, could be removed. The camps are not closed. Eight thousand camp residents have disappeared and people are free to leave, for example, to go to the hospital or shopping in Vavuniya city (Department would appreciate Embassy Colombo’s assessment of whether this is true).” US State Department wrote to US Embassy Colombo.
The US State Department wrote “the reality, he argued, is that these people have no place to go. The government offered the elderly the opportunity to leave, but they chose to remain. Likewise, 45,000 IDPs from Jaffna Peninsula have chosen to remain in the camps because there is no housing on Jaffna. Basic infrastructure and housing in conflict-affected areas in the North have been completely destroyed, Rajapaksa maintained, though electricity provision is underway and irrigation reconstruction is commencing. Family and friends are not, in most cases, a viable option; it is a significant financial burden for a poor family to take on even one person.”
A classified diplomatic cable which details a meeting the US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake has had with Secretary to the Ministry of Difence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on September 24, 2009. The Colombo Telegraph found the related US diplomatic cable from the Secretary of State section of the WikiLeaks database. The cable was classified as “Confidential” signed by Hillary Clinton on September 25 2009.
Under the subheading “IDP RETURNS” the US State Department wrote “Blake underscored the importance of resettling as many IDPs as quickly as possible, noting that a number of GSL-announced deadlines had lapsed. Rajapaksa said that he and the President believe that the sooner IDPs are resettled, the better. That’s why the government’s plans have been so ambitious. The camps are difficult to control security-wise — LTTE combatants easily hide in them — and breed political resentment, he contended. The President wants these people’s political support. Screening for former LTTE could more easily take place in villages. The GSL knows who most of the hard-core LTTE are and could easily monitor them. The biggest problem, according to Rajapaksa, is financial. For example, Justice Minister Moragoda, who is incharge of rehabilitation of former LTTE combatants, is keen to press ahead on this effort. The GSL has provided staff and developed with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) a strategy for rehabilitation that emphasizes livelihood training, but still lacks the resources to build the centers and the housing required. (NOTE: State/USAID has proposed to DOD using a significant portion of the approximately $10 million in DOD-provided 1207 funding for post-conflict stabilization in northern Sri Lanka (about $10 million) on IOM-implemented projects that support the rehabilitation of former LTTE and pro-government paramilitary combatants and former child soldiers, building on similar work in the East. END NOTE.)”
“Rajapaksa surmised that if the GSL was to allow IDPs to go wherever they wanted, there would be significant casualties from landmines. Blake said the U.S. could consider doing more to assist in the demining area, if freedom of movement is assured. Rajapaksa said that many promises from the international community of demining assistance have not been fulfilled. The military alone successfully de-mined seventy percent of the East. He asked that the U.S. provide demining equipment to the government directly and demand accountability. He suggested the Embassy could create a mechanism to ensure such accountability. He questioned the utility of the demining assistance the U.S. has provided to NGOs that were not, he said, working productively. A/S Blake reiterated that assurances on freedom of movement would help us make the case for additional assistance, and suggested removing the barbed wire and allowing the press to witness it and free movement of camp residents.” they further wrote.
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