Tamils held in camps

FRFI 210 August / September 2009

Since 18 May, when the Sri Lankan government claimed a total defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), 300,000 Tamil refugees have been held in camps throughout Sri Lanka. President Rajapakse’s government banned the media from reporting on the conditions in these camps. However, on 10 July senior international aid workers reported an average of 1,400 people dying every week in the giant Manik Farm camp alone.

In FRFI 209 we reported the barbaric assault on the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. This came after unprecedented global demonstrations that MPs and politicians worldwide paid lip service to, then ignored as thousands were slaughtered. David Miliband, the Labour government’s Foreign Secretary said he was ‘gravely concerned’ by the conflict. However, Britain continues to license sales of arms and military equipment to the Sri Lankan state and the UN Security Council agreed to a $1.9 billion loan which will aid the genocide further.

The 300,000 Tamil refugees are held in 42 concentration camps surrounded by barbed and razor wire. While Rajapakse terms these ‘welfare villages’, the high death toll is the result of water-borne diseases, starvation and inadequate water supplies. Around 30,000-35,000 children are held in Manik Farm alone, 15-20% of them are suffering from acute malnutrition according to non-governmental organisation reports. Poor sanitation and drainage are spreading dysentery and diarrhoea with an average of 70 people sharing one toilet, a problem that approaching monsoon rains will exacerbate. Rajapakse’s government has also demanded that the Red Cross scale down its operations in Sri Lanka and has recently prevented them from gaining access to the Manik Farm camp.

On 8 July the Sri Lanka government produced five doctors it had detained in the area where the LTTE leadership had retreated. The doctors had given eyewitness accounts of the slaughter and targeting of hospitals and clinics. Since May they had been held incommunicado but, presented to a select media, they retracted their previous statements and claimed that they had been coerced by the LTTE into giving false reports. However, they remain in detention and the state rejects all calls from the United Nations and other international bodies for their release. 

Sri Lanka has not escaped the global economic crisis and, in the first quarter of 2009, 190,000 industrial, apparel and construction workers were made redundant, with others suffering harsh cuts in pay. Over 200 factories have shut down over the past year and the military victory over the LTTE has encouraged ruthless attacks on jobs and working conditions of the Sinhalese working class. Many of these workers toil in Export Processing Zones surrounded by barbed wire fences patrolled by security guards with little press access. It is clear that after crushing Tamil resistance, the Sri Lankan state will not tolerate any dissent from the poorest sections of the Sinhalese as it pushes the burden of the economic crisis onto the working class.

Socialists in Britain must stand in solidarity with the Tamils and their struggle for self-determination and demand an end to British arms sales to Sri Lanka. We must support the call for a boycott of Sri Lanka until all prisoners in the camps are freed. Self-determination for Tamils!
Sam McGill


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