SRI LANKA ACCEPTS RESPONSIBILITY FOR
REMOVAL ATTEMPT OF TAMIL CIVILIANS; ALL REMOVED PERSONS RETURN
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
11 June 2007