IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Vavuniya

Two testimonies from families released from Menik Camp

[Editors note: Two short testimonies on the plight of IDPs released from Menik Camp sent to Groundviews highlight significant challenges facing reconciliation and resettlement in post-war Sri Lanka and the urgent need for psycho-social counseling.]

Testimony #1
Around 50-52 IDP families from Zone 5, Menik Farm were brought outside the camp with their belongings and asked to leave without any assistance. No transport provided. No proper documentation was given to prove the release. The military brought our belongings in a tractor until the entrance of the camp and then handed over to us. We walked till the entrance. Once our belongings arrived, we were asked to go home. But we didn’t have any facility to go. We didn’t know where to go and how to go. This happened around 4.30 in the evening on 29th September.

All families had a minimum of one pregnant woman in a family. The total number of individuals were around 170.

5-6 families went to Mannar since they had relatives. But they came back midway since they got checked on the way and sent back to camps due to the reason that they didn’t have proper paper work to confirm their release. Those families came back and asked the camp police to give them a letter. Police officer signed a document and those families went back to Mannar. We don’t know what happened after that to them. Before leaving from camp, we, five families, had asked police to write down our names and ID numbers in sinhala and sign it. These are the only documents we have. Though it is signed by the police officer, there is no official rubber stamp on it. We have gone through very bad things in life. We fear what will happen to us.

Testimony #2
We are 5 families, 17 individuals, staying at this lodge somewhere in Vavuniya town. We are terrified. We were supposed to go to Jaffna and they told us that they will take us to Jaffna by bus. But see what had happened to us. We can’t trust anyone and we are terrified of talking. (This person was literally shaking as he was eating his dinner. All of them had bought food parcels.)

One from the lodge said, “This is charity. How can I let them stay outside. They have suffered enough. Please make arrangements for them to reach their homes safely tomorrow.”

There were more IDPs seen in another lodge in front of this lodge. Not entirely sure, but could be around another 5 families.We don’t know what happened to the rest of the families.

The Government Agent (GA) is unreachable. She had apparently gone shopping, when one called her home.

The UN, one of the persons we spoke to said had tried their best to give these people a ride to Vavuniya Kachcheri. But the GA refused and said that she is taking care of them. She obviously did not. The UN also said that every family has a release slip, which is supposed to be yellow in colour. However, the families in the first lodge said that they didn’t have any such slip.

Update from the field sent to Groundviews, 30th September 2009, 3.40pm SL time

Just a follow up on yesterday’s incident with those 50-52 families. The families stayed back in different parts of Vavuniya went to the kachcheri this morning. They are being assisted there in terms of obtaining necessary assistance for their return. Hopefully, soon they will be escorted to their homes in their home towns.