The Government of Sri Lanka accepts responsibility for the recent attempt by Sri Lankan law enforcement authorities to remove Tamil-speaking persons temporarily residing in lodges in Colombo and the suburbs, and to transport them to their permanent residences in the north and the east of the country.

On Friday June 8, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ordered a halt to the removal of the Tamil civilians, following which, all removed persons returned to Colombo. The Supreme Court’s decision was a result of representations made by several civil society organizations in Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake who spoke at a press briefing in Colombo on June 10, 2007, has expressed regret over the incident and assured that there would be no recurrence of such incidents in the future.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has asked the Inspector General of Police to submit an immediate report on the background to the issue. A statement issued by the President’s Office said, “President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken serious note of the concerns expressed by Hon. Members of Parliament, civil society organizations, human rights organizations and activists, religious leaders and the media relating to the exercise yesterday (June 8), leading to the vacation of temporary lodgings by Tamil persons primarily from the North and East of Sri Lanka.”

Law enforcement authorities said that growing security concerns had compelled them to focus attention on lodgers, who were on extended stay for no valid reason and on those who could not prove their identity.

During the last few weeks there were several bomb explosions within the city of Colombo causing many deaths and severe injuries to civilians. Investigations reveal that lodges have become safe havens for Tamil Tigers, who mastermind and engage in terrorist attacks in Colombo. On May 29, six civilians were killed and forty were injured in a Tamil Tiger claymore bomb attack at Ratmalana, in the suburbs of Colombo. On May 24, a Tamil Tiger suicide attack on a bus carrying security personnel at the entrance to Colombo harbor injured five people. On June 8, even as the removal of Tamil civilians was halted in Colombo, law enforcement authorities defused a 7 kilogram claymore mine on a Colombo roadside.

Furthermore, in recent weeks, large quantities of explosives have been discovered. In fact, the biggest seizure of an explosives haul in Sri Lanka took place on June 1, 2007, as a truck carrying over 1300 kilograms of C-4 explosives was seized on its way to Colombo.

Despite the controversy over the removal of 376 Tamil civilians from Colombo, the statistics speak for themselves that Tamils live in harmony with other communities in the south. For instance, according to the 2001 Census of Population and Housing, there are 117,510 Tamils in Colombo, living among 117,090 Sinhalese, the majority ethnic group in the country. There are also 7,946 Indian Tamils, 120,109 Sri Lankan Moors, 3,380 Burghers and 8,680 Malays living in Colombo.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

11 June 2007

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