Sri Lanka hits the headlines again
It’s Monday morning, I’m just back from holiday – and sadly some things just seem to show no sign of getting any better.What am I talking about? Sri Lanka of course.The humanitarian disaster there has once more brought London’s Tamil community on to the streets, with thousands protesting outside parliament today.Whether this latest protest will make any difference we will just have to wait and see – but the omens don’t look good. The Sri Lankan authorities seem increasingly convinced that there isn’t a problem. Indeed they are busy patting themselves on the back about the “transition” camps they have built for the 70,000 or so refugees that have so far fled the tiny parts of the country still held by the Tamil Tigers.The Government showed off one such camp, Menik Farm, to a select number of journalists this weekend. Yes it does have running water, a school and even a hospital, but even this, “the best-equipped of the camps” according to aid agencies, was described as a jail by one resident in today’s Guardian. Meanwhile, just a few miles away, The Independent reported from another camp which had a lack of water and sanitation facilities that were “utterly inadequate”.And remember all of this information comes with a huge caveat – very few journalists are allowed to report from this part of Sri Lanka and some are banned from the country altogether. One such journalist is Jeremy Page from The Times. On Saturday he described his latest failed attempt to get in.The situation for local journalists is even worse – a problem Amnesty has highlighted time and time again. They face regular intimidation and over the last few years at least a dozen have been killed.Meanwhile, we here are growing increasingly concerned over the remaining 100,000 civilians trapped between the warring factions. A ceasefire between the two sides expired on Thursday and Amnesty is very worried about their safety. The Sri Lankan military is accusing the Tigers of using them as human shields. And while reports that 5,000 were freed over the weekend, fears remain.
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