Very rarely does victory resemble defeat. In Sri Lanka, while government officials celebrate triumph and some citizens light firecrackers in the street, more than 250,000 displaced Tamils are trapped in tiny, dense relief camps in northern Sri Lanka waiting to hear whether or not they can return home. What kind of victory is this?

Yes, the fighting has ended and lives will now be spared. But these men and women deserve better treatment from their own government.

The LTTE used civilians as shields against government fire in the civilian populated “safe zone”. The region’s name bears no resemblance to its true nature, as both the army and the LTTE used that area to fight each other, killing an UN-estimated 6400 civilians.

But many got away and sought refuge in poorly kept relief camps away from all the fighting. The fighting has now ended, but the displaced remain in dense captivity.

Though the civil war and violent conflict in Sri Lanka has come to a halt, a new conflict has risen from its ashes. A humanitarian conflict, pitting humanitarian relief agencies against a government complicit in the killing of its own civilians, guilty of firing into a safe zone, ignorant of the aid so desperately needed by its own people and somehow, seemingly unaware of the toll the war has had on the entire world.

The LTTE and the government have put civilians in a horrible place and because of them more than 250,000 have been displaced and thousands killed. The incipient attitudes of both the Tigers and the government have caused so much disruption that humanitarian organizations now must repopulate and rebuild a whole region. They must relocate a whole population while simultaneously providing them with the supplies and aid necessary for them to come somewhat close to their previous way of life.

The UN and relief agencies like Oxfam are trying to access relief camps to provide the displaced with supplies and aid, but the Sri Lankan government has placed restrictions on the areas, denying vehicular access. The government says they’ll relocate the displaced by year’s end.

But the Tamil diaspora, especially here in North America, is pretty sick of these promises. Now that the war has ended, they want relief for their people and they want it now. Their protests have disrupted large western capitals (like Toronto) and their resolve is one that hasn’t been seen in long. Many Tamils are especially angry at Canada, home of the largest population of Tamils outside Sri Lanka, for displaying so much apathy even now that the war has ended. Vigils and protests still occur weekly in downtown Toronto.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon made his way to Sri Lanka last night, traveling with 20 reporters who were previously banned from many war-torn regions in the country. He said, according to the AFP, he was “deeply moved” as his plane flew over the desecrated, stripped and people-less landscape.

Ban will press for unrestricted access to relief camps so aid can be quickly and efficiently supplied to the displaced and homeless. He will argue his case to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

Good luck.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

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