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Civilian casualties, IDP camps and asylum seekers December 9, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, Sri Lanka , trackback

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Sunday Leader and the full article may be viewed at this link.

Father Rohan Silva is a respected senior Catholic priest who has been actively involved in building bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka through the Centre for Society and Religion, a Catholic charity which he heads. His work has seen him play a role in assisting Tamil civilians recover from the impact of the civil war. In this context, he told the author earlier in June this year, about the impact of the final months of the war on Tamil civilians who were caught in the crossfire, the conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and the factors leading to the flight of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

Father Rohan Silva

Civilian Predicament

In the final phase of Sri Lanka’s separatist civil war, it was the Tamil civilian population that bore the brunt of the carnage that characterised the war’s last months. In addition to being caught in the cross-fire, it saw Tamil civilians shot when trying to flee to government controlled territory and forced by the LTTE to act as either human shields or forcibly recruited conscripts. The actual number of civilian deaths is yet to be accurately estimated though it is generally believed to be several thousand or possibly more.  Father Rohan Silva said “Very interestingly there has been no resurgence of the LTTE. So people have the feeling that the war is over. For over a whole year we haven’t heard anything. So one definitely would say there was a reason to fight them and now at least people can get on a bus and travel without fear without looking at every other person’s bag, and when a Tamil person gets in he isn’t under immediate suspicion. People are more relaxed and that’s a credit to the government. One would say terrorists are to be fought. We don’t justify that, but the government has to handle that.” “I think even to the last day on May 18, the LTTE expected a change. Even that late, the LTTE actually thought the international community might intervene because there was no other way.

Precisely because of that fact, the government had declared that there were not 300,000 odd people there, otherwise it would have been an international issue. They were playing with statistics. They said it’s a matter of 100,000-150,000 people which was not true because when the whole bulk moved out they did not know where to put them. It ended up with 280,000 finally. That is when you add up the others who had come earlier. These are only those that survived. How many died nobody knows, but actually we will find out soon. At least from a Christian point of view, the churches have their records. Normally the parish priest knows how many people are in his parish. When the parishes are rebuilt they will know how many are missing.


1. Vikas Kumar - January 3, 2011

If we have information for Christians at the parish level then we can extrapolate the figures after controlling for inter-community demographic differences (information on this should be available in the census records) to find out reasonable estimates for other religious communities.

2. Turning Former LTTE Personnel into Sri Lankan Citizens? - Groundviews - October 28, 2011

[…] Sergei 2010b “Civilian casualties, IDP camps and asylum seekers,” South Asia Masala online, 9 Dec. 2010 http:// asiapacific.anu. edu.au […]

3. kottuCopy › Turning Former LTTE Personnel into Sri Lankan Citizens? - October 29, 2011

[…] Sergei 2010b “Civilian casualties, IDP camps and asylum seekers,” South Asia Masala online, 9 Dec. 2010 http:// asiapacific.anu. edu.au […]