Sri Lankan Government orders all MPs into secure camps

Banyan News Reporters

20 April 2009, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Special security camps, called ‘Government Comfort Centres’ are to be established in order to improve security for Government MPs, according to sources in the Defence sector. Due to fears of LTTE attacks in the coming weeks the Government ordered that all its Members of Parliament will be housed in these centres.

“The Government Comfort Centres are perfectly suited for defensive purposes with no access for outsiders and minimal movement out of these centres for residents” added the defence spokesperson in an exclusive interview with Banyan News Service. According to the plans titled ‘Responsibility to Protect Members of Parliament (R2P MP)’ dated April 2009, the centres will be constructed in three adjoining plots of land which will house approximately 109 Members of Parliament, their spouses, dependents, relatives and apparatchiks, estimated to be just over 1,000 persons.

The GCCs under R2P MP plans aim to create a secure and comfortable living environment, free from the constant scrutiny of paparazzi from free media as well. Double razor wire fencing offering excellent views of surrounding areas and adequate ventilation, security centres outside and inside the centres, landmines placed outside the perimeter to protect the residents, strict curfew hours and a security clamp down in adjoining areas, with shoot on sight orders, will protect MPs at risk of terror attacks.

“These centres are completely self sufficient and extremely comfortable. MPs will have no reason to travel outside at all” commented the defence spokesperson, showing detailed plans drawings of the proposed sites. The centres will have Internet cafes, schools and pre-schools, a gym, pool, a cinema, a hospital, a supermarket and a Sunday pola. “Members of the armed forces in civilian clothes will serve in all facilities and provide security. The MPs won’t even realise how well they are being guarded and overseen.” Banyan News Reports learns that the welfare camps in Vavuniya for the Vanni IDPs are the model for the Comfort Centres, combining the best in security and comfort.

“This is the best way to ensure safety for our MPs. We must all cooperate in the war efforts” commented Chief Government whip M.P. Deshapremi Patchagulisekera welcoming the measure. Patchagulisekera stated that all government MPs were in “complete agreement” with the proposed measure and that signed letters to this effect from all MPs were with the President already. He also noted that the Government was in conversation with the Speaker of Parliament as to how the MPs will be able to participate in parliament proceedings via satellite link up. Unfortunately, all government MPs that Banyan News Service contacted were unavailable for comment as all their phones were disconnected.

The main opposition party, the Barely United Party, criticised the plan claiming that it is a crack down on democracy. “The Government is afraid of MP’s crossing over to the opposition. That is why they are being shut up and interned in a concentration camp” claimed BUP front bencher Hemadaama Parajaweera. “We condemn this step by the Government as being undemocratic. These MPs are being illegally detained.”

A press release of the constituent party of the governing alliance, the Maoist-Stalinist Front (MSF) has condemned the BUP statement saying that the BUP “is always opposing for the sake of opposing” and that the statement “did not highlight the positive aspects of the plan.” However, when contacted, the MSF spokesperson denied that an official statement had been issued and that the party is investigating how a statement was issued on their letter head without politburo approval. “Always this is happening” was the only comment to BNR by MSF front bencher Vasideva Kondapanane.

The diplomatic community has yet to put out an official response to the Government’s plans but the United Nations has responded to the proposal stating that it is “cautiously optimistic”. When contacted by BNR, the head of humanitarian relief at the UN recommended a series of “parliamentary pauses” to ensure that MPs at risk could move to and be sheltered in the GCC. The statement also added that while the UN will not be directly involved in the establishment of the centres, it hopes to be able to access and engage with all the actors residing in them.

According to sources in the defence sector, a plot of land has already been identified in Embilipitiya and is being cleared. Rumours of hand grenades lobbed into the residences of MPs to encourage them to move to the GCCs were flatly denied by defence sources.

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