How many targets can the Government of Sri Lanka set itself?
When he announced the victory, President Rajapaksa said 80% would be released in 180 days. Then, he and other Government ministers tried to backtrack on the percentages – first 75%, then 60% – and also the deadline. And now, the first early indicator of the importance of international pressure, the Government has announced a new target of resettling 50,000 civilians in 2 weeks.
Some say the Government hopes that an on-going process of changing targets and dates will diffuse pressure and confuse the international community. In an otherwise welcome announcement, the UK Conservative Party seems to be the first victim of this: May 18th was when the victory was announced and 180 days means November 14th, and not mid-December! So, to help the President Rajapaksa and others, we have started a count-down.
Welcome as 50,000 will be (assuming it happens) this still leaves 230,000 illegally detained in an inhumane situation, just waiting for cholera and typhoid to strike. The only target that matters is the emptying of the camps. Instead of making excuses about mines, the Government should immediately allow any civilians who can go to relatives who will take responsibility for them to do so. This Government announcement about 50,000 shows pressure can work. But there is a lot more work to be done.