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In Sri Lanka 13,130 Missing IDPs Reported But Downplayed By UN

by Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, June 2, 2009

UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews.

UNITED NATIONS, June 2 -- With the UN already under fire for withholding and downplaying the number of civilian casualties in Sri Lanka, another ongoing controversy has opened up concerning the number of internally displaced persons detained in the IDP camps in northern Sri Lanka. Between the May 27 and May 30 reports of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 13,000 IDPs simply disappeared from the camps.

   OCHA's May 30 report states that "276,785 persons crossed to the Government controlled areas from the conflict zone. This represents a decrease of 13,130 IDPs since the last report (Sitrep No.18) on 27 May 2009. The decrease is associated with double counting. Additional verification is required."

   But earlier, OCHA had praised the "improved, systematic registration being undertaken in the camps."

    UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews.


UN's Pascoe and Holmes, head of OCHA, questioned by Press, missing IDPs not shown

    These UN sources are surprised, since even Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is under fire for downplaying what has happened to the Tamils, that the UN would be so seemingly cavalier about 13,000 "missing" persons from almost entirely Tamil interment camps.

    Meanwhile, in further fall out, journalist Poddala Jayantha, secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association, was kidnapped near his home and severely beaten with sticks before being dumped in a suburb of Colombo. The government had accused him of being too sympathetic to the Tamil Tiger -- or just to the Tamils. The UN, too, has its different way of trying to crack down on journalists. Watch this site.

On June 3, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: on Sri Lanka, there are these OCHA reports they put out, you know, situation reports. And the one of 30 May says that, you know, in essence it says that, it decreases the number of IDPs in the camps by 13,000 and it says, in a single line it says this decrease is associated with double-counting. In the previous report [27 May], which had 13,000 more IDPs, it said that the system was improved systematic registration. So what is the UN doing to make sure that people aren’t actually disappearing from the camps when its own numbers reflect 13,000 people missing?

Spokesperson Montas: Well, I have to say that it is a rather an unusual situation. There is such a massive influx of people, which can explain that the registration process -- which is still ongoing, by the way -- there was some double counting that was involved. And, as soon as they found out they rectified the numbers to reflect that. So, the UN can, you know, we’re there… They’re not our camps, you know. We’re there to assist for better treatment of the IDPs.

Inner City Press: Since the numbers were so specific, can the… is the UN then by saying that the entire 13,130 that are missing are just double counting, is it saying that no one has been taken out of the camps?

Spokesperson Montas: That is what OCHA is saying. It is double counting, they went through it several times, and it is double counting. It is not about people missing.

   We'll see -- watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.