“Money is not enough to solve Sri Lanka’s refugee problems,” said Father Santhanam, a Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer at the Madurai High Court in Tamil Nadu. He made the comment in response to a recent decision by the Indian government to allocate five billion rupees (US$ 10 million) to projects to rehabilitate Tamil refugees promoted by the Sri Lankan government.
New Delhi has decided to set aside the money for that purpose in its 2009-2010 federal budget, but for the Indian priest however large the amount of money is “Sri Lanka does not have any real plan to rehabilitate war refugees.”
Father Santhanam is concerned in fact that “India might use the funds to have a clean conscience” and “reiterate its hegemony over the island” with little in it for the Tamil population.
The conditions in which refugees are forced to live are such that they continue to generate controversy. Even for the Red Cross and the UNCHR the situation is still a humanitarian emergency.
“I hope India will not provide any money without clear guarantees by the Sri Lankan government about their use,” the Jesuit priest said.
“Many people still fear that refugees will remain in the camps for an indefinite period. Some suspect that continuous delays will help Sinhalese settlers come into the Vanni region and change its demographic situation.”
Father Santhanam hopes that the Indian government will send, in addition to money, also “human rights activities tasked to act as ambassadors of reconciliation, rescue, rehabilitation and reconstruction.” (NC)
Article Compiled by: Satya Satvika, Intern-HRDI