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GOVERNMENT CONTRADICTS BBC STORY ON REFUGEES AND TELLS CATHOLIC BISHOPS HAVE DISASSOCIATED THEMSELVES FROM IT

By Walter Jayawardhana

The Sri Lanka government completely contradicted a news item broadcast by BBC Sinhala.com relating to the internally displaced persons in Wanni they sourced to “Catholic Church” and said the two Bishops of the area have disassociated themselves from the statement issued by the purported “Catholic Commission” , that had written to the UN Secretary General.

“The story on BBC Sinhala.com which quotes a purported communication from the “Catholic Church” addressed to UN Secretary-General relating to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Wanni, does not present an accurate picture of the reality on the ground,” said Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, coneyed by the President’s Secretariat to this correspondent.The statementon on IDPs had been sent by Father James Pathinathan to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“When a clarification of this news report was sought from their Lordships the Bishops of Jaffna and Mannar, the Minister was reassured by the Bishops that the communication was made without their sanction and appears to be the writer’s personal perspective”, the Minister said.
“The two Bishops have also acknowledged the excellent cooperation extended to them by the Sri Lankan security forces and, in particular, the Security Force Commanders serving in the Wanni, who are in regular contact with them and have often facilitated delivery of humanitarian assistance when requested by the Bishops”. , a Press Release from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights said.

The denial also said, “The recent story on BBCSinhala.com which quotes a purported communication from the “Catholic Church” addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon relating to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Wanni and the “human tragedy” supposedly unfolding in that part of Sri Lanka, has been strongly refuted by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, as a gross exaggeration. He said that the Government views all civilians in the Wanni as Sri Lankan citizens and, as such, the Government has done and continues to do its utmost to ensure their safety, security and welfare. Noting that the Sri Lankan security forces have been acting under specific orders to prevent civilian casualties and that the Government, in spite of the ongoing military operations, has continued to supply the people in uncleared areas with essential supplies and services through the District Secretaries whilst being fully aware that all of the supplies were not reaching ordinary civilians. This is probably a unique situation in the world and is indicative of the deep commitment of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration to ensure the wellbeing of ordinary Sri Lankan civilians living in these areas. The Sri Lankan forces have done all that is necessary to ensure that military operations have not resulted in civilian deaths or casualties.

“The purported communication to the UN Secretary-General is sourced to one Father James Pathinathan who is said to be President of the Peace and Justice Commission in the Wanni. Minister Samarasinghe sought a clarification on this communication from their Lordships the Bishops of Jaffna and Mannar. He was reassured by the Bishops that the communication was made without their sanction and appears to be the writer’s personal perspective. The two Bishops have also acknowledged the excellent cooperation extended to them by the Sri Lankan security forces and, in particular, the Security Force Commanders serving in the Wanni, who are in regular contact with them and have often facilitated delivery of humanitarian assistance when requested by the Bishops.

“Minister Samarasinghe also consulted the District Secretaries (Government Agents – GAs) of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi on the situation relating to IDPs in the Wanni. They had confirmed the adequacy of stocks in hand and the regular supply of food and other relief items by the Government to the Wanni. UN Agencies and other relief organizations were also supplementing the Government’s efforts in this connection. The problems faced by IDPs were being addressed including food relief and temporary shelter in school premises. The GA of Kilinochchi informed Minister Samarasinghe that there was a temporary shortfall in food stocks due to transportation delays of WFP supplies which are due to be sent from Vavuniya. The Government has taken immediate steps to coordinate the expeditious delivery of these food items. He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to caring for these Sri Lankans and stated that IDPs will be facilitated to move to cleared areas in Vavuniya where they can receive all assistance. The Minister also requested the GAs to notify him of any shortcomings in supplies in order that remedial action could be taken.

“The story on BBCSinhala.com does not present an accurate picture of the reality on the ground in the Wanni, he added. The Government will continue, through modalities such as the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), chaired by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, monitor and coordinate the provision of enhanced relief to any and all Sri Lankan civilians affected by the conflict, should the evolving situation require it.”


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