Search

 

Cablegate: A/S Blake Views Idp Freedom of Movement at Menik Farm

VZCZCXRO8785
PP RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1146/01 3510402
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 170402Z DEC 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0992
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2183
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 9207
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7457
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 5306
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3610
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 5232
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 0767
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4354
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 9767
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 7058
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO 0088
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3922
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001146

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV PREL CE
SUBJECT: A/S Blake Views IDP Freedom of Movement at Menik Farm

REF: COLOMBO 1135

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On December 8, one week after the Government of
Sri Lanka (GSL) announced freedom of movement for internally
displaced persons (IDPs), Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake
visited the Menik Farms IDP camp complex and several communities to
which Tamil-speaking civilians were returning. Other conversations
Blake held with GSL officials, opposition figures, and civic
activists during his December 8-10 visit were reported separately
(reftel). Military and civilian government authorities briefed
Blake on accomplishments since the end of the war, requesting
support to address current and future challenges -- humanitarian
demining and rehabilitation of ex-combatants chief among them. A/S
Blake commended the government on "impressive" recent progress and
encouraged access for non-governmental organizations to help address
priority needs going forward. END SUMMARY.

RETURNS UNDERWAY WITH CHALLENGES
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) Upon arrival at Menik Farms, the Assistant Secretary --
accompanied by the Charge and USAID officer -- was briefed by Maj.
General Kamal Gunaratne, Sri Lanka Army Commander for the Wanni, and
Ms. Manmatharajah Charles, Government Agent, Vavuniya District, on
government efforts to address the humanitarian needs of more than
100,000 persons who fled the no-fire zone during the final three
days of fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in
mid-May 2009. Gunaratne credited international non-governmental
organizations under the United Nations umbrella for assisting in
this "mammoth task." While acknowledging the negative optic of the
razor-wire encircled Menik Farms, he said, "They're our people.
We're trying our level best to send them back to their villages to
live a normal day-to-day life. But it's not easy." Three things
have delayed a more expedited return, according to Gunaratne: 1)
separating persons with LTTE ties from the IDP population; 2)
decontaminating residential areas, economically productive land and
public spaces further North from mines and unexploded ordinance; and
3) the establishment of a "comprehensive plan" for resettlement,
developed in collaboration between Government Agents, Divisional
Secretaries and Grama Nildhari officers in the Northern Province
utilizing past electoral lists and available information on land
tenure. Blake congratulated both Gunaratne and the Government Agent
on "commendable progress on many levels" since his departure from
Colombo as U.S. Ambassador in late May.

EX-COMBATANTS
-------------

3. (SBU) The GSL waited to lift restrictions on IDP movements to and
from camps only after persons with suspected LTTE ties had been
removed, Gunaratne said. Suspected LTTE fighters -- now totaling
more than 11,700, most housed in separate, closed camps in the
Vavuniya District -- were identified either by Military Intelligence
or other IDPs, with some former cadres stepping forth voluntarily.
Gunaratne said these persons were "trained, indoctrinated and
motivated" by an ideology that remained despite the absence of a
leadership to propagate it; rehabilitation of ex-combatants would be
a GSL priority. The GSL had developed a "comprehensive plan" for
this process, to be administered by the Commissioner General of
Rehabilitation under the Ministry of Justice, which has sought
international advice on a legal framework, which has yet to be
defined.

DECONGESTING MENIK FARMS
------------------------

4. (SBU) Stopping during a drive-through of Zone 2 within the Menik
Farms complex, A/S Blake spoke with doctors at a USAID-supported
hospital and IDPs congregating at a nearby shop. The smiling shop
owner -- himself displaced -- said he was earning nearly 20 USD per
day, roughly three times the take-home pay of a skilled laborer.
Large patches of bare land were visible where not long ago rows of
tents had covered the ground, vacated by more than 50,000 IDPs who
had departed in recent weeks, reducing the Zone 2 population to a

COLOMBO 00001146 002.2 OF 003


far more manageable 20,000 persons. The overall number of IDPs in
Menik Farms had dropped from a peak total of more than 280,000 to
114,000, which according to an earlier study by UNICEF is low enough
to allow IDPs to relocate within the camp should monsoonal rains
submerge their shelters. IDPs were upbeat with the expectation that
the camp would be emptied by January 31, 2010, the revised end of
the 180-day period in which the GSL had earlier committed to having
all IDPs from the Wanni back home. The Government Agent had no
answer when asked what would happen to those from parts of the
Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts, however, where demining
efforts were expected to continue for years.

RETURN IN PROGRESS
------------------

5. (SBU) Following the camp visit, Blake flew by helicopter to the
adjacent district of Mannar and traveled by road along a stretch
between the Murunkan and Adampan divisions, where the GSL's military
operations to capture the LTTE-controlled Wanni commenced in late
2007 and early 2008. He spoke with a GSL civil engineer at Giants
Tank, a reservoir under rehabilitation by the World Bank that would
supply water to an estimated 30,000 families once return to adjacent
villages in the "rice bowl" of the North was complete. In front of
a shop in Adampan, farmers said they had arrived too late to plant
rice paddy during the current monsoon, which should continue through
February, but were receiving from the World Food Program (WFP)
monthly rations, which should continue for at least six months. At a
school in Kattankulam, 10th-grade students -- many of whom had been
displaced 16 times in the last three years -- had resumed their
studies. Asked what they need most, they requested bicycles to get
to school and more books for the school library. Soon their village
was expected to be connected to the national power supply grid, at
which point computers would also be needed.

DEMINING
--------

6. (SBU) Although no mine-related injuries had been reported among
the IDP returnee population or demining teams operating in the
Wanni, the level of contamination remained high, a member of the Sri
Lanka military's humanitarian demining unit told the A/S during a
briefing at a site in Pallakuli, Mannar. To expedite returns, the
military activists during his December 8-10 visit were reported separately
(reftel). Military and civilian government authorities briefed
Blake on accomplishments since the end of the war, requesting
support to address current and future challenges -- humanitarian
demining and rehabilitation of ex-combatants chief among them. A/S
Blake commended the government on "impressive" recent progress and
encouraged access for non-governmental organizations to help address
priority needs going forward. END SUMMARY.

RETURNS UNDERWAY WITH CHALLENGES
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) Upon arrival at Menik Farms, the Assistant Secretary --
accompanied by the Charge and USAID officer -- was briefed by Maj.
General Kamal Gunaratne, Sri Lanka Army Commander for the Wanni, and
Ms. Manmatharajah Charles, Government Agent, Vavuniya District, on
government efforts to address the humanitarian needs of more than
100,000 persons who fled the no-fire zone during the final three
days of fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in
mid-May 2009. Gunaratne credited international non-governmental
organizations under the United Nations umbrella for assisting in
this "mammoth task." While acknowledging the negative optic of the
razor-wire encircled Menik Farms, he said, "They're our people.
We're trying our level best to send them back to their villages to
live a normal day-to-day life. But it's not easy." Three things
have delayed a more expedited return, according to Gunaratne: 1)
separating persons with LTTE ties from the IDP population; 2)
decontaminating residential areas, economically productive land and
public spaces further North from mines and unexploded ordinance; and
3) the establishment of a "comprehensive plan" for resettlement,
developed in collaboration between Government Agents, Divisional
Secretaries and Grama Nildhari officers in the Northern Province
utilizing past electoral lists and available information on land
tenure. Blake congratulated both Gunaratne and the Government Agent
on "commendable progress on many levels" since his departure from
Colombo as U.S. Ambassador in late May.

EX-COMBATANTS
-------------

3. (SBU) The GSL waited to lift restrictions on IDP movements to and
from camps only after persons with suspected LTTE ties had been
removed, Gunaratne said. Suspected LTTE fighters -- now totaling
more than 11,700, most housed in separate, closed camps in the
Vavuniya District -- were identified either by Military Intelligence
or other IDPs, with some former cadres stepping forth voluntarily.
ed" by an ideology that remained despite the absence of a
leadership to propagate it; rehabilitation of ex-combatants would be
a GSL priority. The GSL had developed a "comprehensive plan" for
this process, to be administered by the Commissioner General of
Rehabilitation under the Ministry of Justice, which has sought
international advice on a legal framework, which has yet to be
defined.

DECONGESTING MENIK FARMS
------------------------

4. (SBU) Stopping during a drive-through of Zone 2 within the Menik
Farms complex, A/S Blake spoke with doctors at a USAID-supported
hospital and IDPs congregating at a nearby shop. The smiling shop
owner -- himself displaced -- said he was earning nearly 20 USD per
day, roughly three times the take-home pay of a skilled laborer.
Large patches of bare land were visible where not long ago rows of
tents had covered the ground, vacated by more than 50,000 IDPs who
had departed in recent weeks, reducing the Zone 2 population to a

COLOMBO 00001146 003 OF 003


return, delays in distribution of assistance caused by lack of
access to areas of return for non-governmental organizations, and
confusion among returnees regarding what they are entitled to and
who is responsible for delivering it.

BUTENIS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19

Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at risk, the head of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) said on Friday. With global attention and support focused this week ... More>>

UN Report: Myanmar Approaching Point Of Economic Collapse

The turmoil following the military coup in Myanmar, coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could result in up to 25 million people – nearly half of the country’s population, living in poverty by early next year, a United Nations report said on Friday. That ... More>>

World Vision: India’s Second Wave Shows The Global Fight Against COVID-19 Is Far From Won

As India’s COVID-19 daily infection rates reach devastating levels, international aid agency World Vision has warned that the world is nowhere near defeating this virus and some nations are yet to face their worst days. Andrew Morley, World Vision ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

Study: Cut Methane Emissions To Avert Global Temperature Rise

6 May 2021 Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed ... More>>

UN: Learning From COVID-19, Forum To Highlight Critical Role Of Science, Technology And Innovation In Global Challenges

New York, 4 May —To build on the bold innovations in science, technology and innovations that produced life-saving solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN will bring together experts to highlight measures that can broaden the development and deployment ... More>>

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us: “Healthcare Can No Longer Exist Without Technology”

A grandmother in a village in the Gambia should have the same quality of life and access to healthcare they deserve as in New York or London. Photo: InnovaRx Global Health Start-up Works To Bridge Healthcare Gap In The Gambia By: Pavithra Rao As ... More>>