Apparently concentration camps are pricier to run than you think.
Britain made clear its discontent over Sri Lanka’s treatment of Tamil refugees last night by abstaining from a vote at the International Monetary Fund to give $2.4bn (£1.46 bn) to the country.
The abstention, the first by the UK since 2004, signals the degree of unease in London over the handling of the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka following the government’s recent victory in its civil war against the Tamil Tigers. The US, Germany and France also abstained.
The British abstention was more symbolic than practical in that the IMF loan will go ahead in any case. It was approved by the IMF executive board in Washington last night, with $322 million to be made available to the Sri Lanka immediately and the rest flowing subject to quarterly reviews by the fund.
Speaking for Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), the US-based activist group that filed law suit seeking an injunction against a US IMF vote, British representative of TAG, Jan Jananayagam said: “Our law suit is vindicated by the U.S abstention. Tamil people are also grateful to the UK and France for showing their opposition to the IMF loan to Sri Lanka.
“The IMF Board’s decision to reward Sri Lanka for racism and genocide despite the opposition of the United Kingdom and others is appalling. In the guise of “development” the IMF is helping to fund ethnic cleansing and militarisation via “High security zones” of the Tamil areas. While the entire Tamil population of the region are imprisoned in concentration camps, the government has announced its intention to change the ethnic composition by financing Sinhala settlers to immigrate to the formerly Tamil areas.
“There is evidence that many of the 300 000 inmates of the camps are being used as slave labour. Under these circumstances the IMF cannot credibly assert that “free market” market conditions that are “blind to race” exist in Sri Lanka.
“While the IMF may stave off default in Sri Lanka, unconscionable actions such as this may risk further disillusionment and radicalisation of Tamil populations globally,” Ms Jananayagam added.
A spokesperson for the US-based rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “The government continues to hold displaced persons in detention camps in violation of their rights to liberty and freedom of movement, limiting their ability to communicate and talk to others about what happened in the final stages of the war.
“It prohibits aid agencies from speaking out about poor conditions in the camps and expels critics. Persons suspected of having LTTE ties have been detained incommunicado, contrary to international law, and credible reports indicate that at least some have been mistreated,” the Times reported.