I have written on this site before about the Sri Lankan refugee camps, where 300,000 Tamils wait for permission to return to their homes in camps that are reported to be over-crowded and lacking in basic services. Human rights groups have repeatedly called for an end to the illegal detention of civilians who were displaced during the conflict, but the Sri Lankan government seems to be treating all refugees as security risks, potential LTTE members that they need to screen before release.
Now The Hindu has published a series of articles that seem to support the claims of the Sri Lankan government. Over the last few days, the newspaper has carried the fruits of N. Ram’s trip to Sri Lanka: a three-part transcript of an interview between Ram, the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, and Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka, in which the question of civilian casualties and government culpability has not yet been broached (Part III is due to appear in the papers tomorrow).
There was also a piece by Ram titled “Visiting the Vavuniya IDP Camps: An uplifting experience” with full color photographs of the largest of the refugee camps. Apparently, after Ram’s three hour conversation with Rajapaksa, he was flown by helicopter by the Defense Ministry to see for himself the conditions there. According to Ram, conditions in the camps were much better than what has been reported in the western media, and far, far better than the Sri Lankan refugee camps in India. Indeed, Ram concurred with Rajapaksa’s claim in his interview that “the condition in the camps is the best any country has.”
Keep in mind that Rajapaksa and Ram are talking about the same refugee camps that a normally uncritical Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, called the worst he had seen in the world. How could two people who visited the same refugee camps have come away with completely opposite impressions?