Sri Lanka resettlement plan needed: politicians, activists

November 22, 2009 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan government has failed to make adequate welfare provision for the 136,000 Tamil civilians it plans to release from internment camps, rights activists and opposition parties said Sunday. Heeding international calls for the camps to be closed, the authorities said the remaining detainees — held since the military finally crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in May — would be allowed out.

Many observers welcomed Saturday’s announcement, but warned the government that it must organise a structured resettlement programme.

“We are insisting that the International Committee of the Red Cross or the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) should be present when people are resettled,” said Nimalka Fernando, spokeswoman for the Democratic People’s Movement.

She said the government’s plan to “haphazardly” send the civilians back to their villages was “seriously flawed”.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) said the Tamils were leaving the much-criticised camps without receiving any long-term help in providing themselves with food or rebuilding their homes and livelihoods.

“People are to be moved out without proper welfare facilities,” UNP general secret