Diocese urges the government to meet the immediate needs of displaced persons, Mannar, Sri Lanka (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
Rome, 28 January 2011 – In its submission to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the Catholic Diocese of Mannar has urged the government to demonstrate public commitment to the objective truth regarding the events that took place during the decades of conflict. The diocese described this commitment as indispensable in any attempts at reconciliation.

The submission stressed the significance of uncovering the truth concerning international human rights and humanitarian law violations. The document, signed by Rt Rev Dr Rayappu Joseph, the Catholic Bishop of Mannar, the Very Rev Fr Victor Sosai, Vicar General of Diocese of Mannar, and Rev Fr Xavier Croos, Representative of the Priests Forum of Mannar, also highlighted the need for clarification regarding the fate of the 146,679 Vanni citizens unaccounted for since the end of the war.

While recognising the importance of the LLRC as a move towards reconciliation, the submission authors expressed disappointment that previous Commissions of Inquiry had failed to establish the truth about human rights violations and extrajudicial killings; for example, the attack on the Pesalai Catholic Church where civilians were taking refuge and the disappearance of Fr Jim Brown, both in 2006.

Speaking about the LLRC visit to Mannar, it was noted that three days was an insufficient amount of time for a town of tens of thousands of people affected by three decades of war. It is crucial for any serious effort towards reconciliation to go back into our history beyond February 2002, the submission continued.

Immediate concerns. More than 20 months after the end of the war, the submission expressed concern that there is still no comprehensive housing scheme in Mannar district. Most displaced persons, it read, still have no housing, while others are living in makeshift and temporary houses. The document criticised the state's spending limits of approximately 2,150 euro placed per house as inadequate.

The document also scorned the lack of assistance provided to resettled persons in need to build livelihoods: fishing, farming, shops. In contrast it highlighted the negative effects of the large number of businesses run by the military and southerners which has had a negative affect on local well being.

In addition, the submission also highlighted the lack of access to basic services and goods: water, nutritious food – including milk foods for children – and inadequate education, healthcare and transport facilities.

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