12/06/2009

Sri Lanka government bars media acces to IDPs to cover up the faults


(December 06, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka government has decided to postpone opening of the IDP camps and the newly resettled villages in the island's Northern Province to media and NGOs in order to cover up the weaknesses in the way the people are treated, analysts say.

Although the tension on IDP camps in Vavuniya have ebbed with recent resettlement and  granting of permission for the IDPs to go out of the camps temporarily, there are allegations that the government has resettled some IDPs in temporary mini camps and many IDPs have not given the promised facilities for resettlement.

Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama declared in a BBC interview Tuesday that the media now had full access, prompting a flood of requests from reporters to travel to the former war zone in the north.However, AFP reported that restrictions on visits to the northern district of Vavuniya where the government maintains its camp complex remain in place despite them being declared "open" on Tuesday.

"The restrictions on journalists to visit displaced people in camps have not been relaxed yet," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters.

Pressed for a date when the camps would be open to the media, the minister said: "We are trying to lift the ban on media access, but it will take time."

"The media is not allowed to go into the camps," the defence ministry's media centre chief Lakshman Hulugalle said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said they had also been denied accesss to the camps and there had been no relaxation of the restrictions despite Bogollagama's announcement.

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