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Menik farm welfare center of the Internally Displaced Persons

The Menik Farm Welfare Center in the Wanni , is being constructed by the Sri Lankan Government to accommodate the Internally Displaced Person's (IDP's) who were detained forcibly by the LTTE to be used as "human shields". The AIADMK General Secretary Ms Jayalaitha Jayaram alleged recently that the LTTE was "using the Tamils as a shield in the war against the Sri Lanka Army" ("The Hindu", 18th February). The IDP's hade been detained as the last resort by the LTTE to prevent the rapidly advancing Security Forces conducting "humanitarian" operations to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka. They had escaped carrying their children and whatever they could carry with to enter the Government controlled areas risking their lives as well as of their children.

The Welfare Centre consists of a total of 565 houses with another 150 being in the process of being urgently constructed to complete the first phase of the giant project to accommodate over 30,000 families that are expected to arrive in the Wanni. Twelve more such projects are planned with 2754 houses in 1000 acres of land which is being cleared and prepared for construction work now underway. Some among the arrival have been injured as they have been fired at by the LTTE to prevent them escaping into Government controlled territory. According to the Government Agent of Vavuniya, Ms P.S.M. Charles the people are happy to be in the Menik Farm Welfare Center as they are assured of protection provided by the Security Forces. According to media reports she said "the safety of the IDP's was assured: and had "justified the presence" of the military . The essential items of food, clothing have been provided BY THE Government with water, medical and toilet facilities. The project is supported by some Non- Governmental Organizations who have provided the children with educational opportunities with qualified staff. There are also banking and shopping facilities with plenty of fresh vegetables.

Children of all ages and both sexes are provided not only with formal education but also have the opportunity to learn vocation skills. These vocational training facilities range from tailoring and Dress making to technical and mechanical engineering skills as motor engineering, lathe work, welding etc. The Welfare Center is also provided with a well stocked shopping area, medical facilities including the indigenous Ayurvedha and other daily requirements.

Parents regard their children as their most precious possessions and are now happy with the feeling of security provided by the Security Forces. With a renewed feeling of confidence, the people freely express their own feelings about the LTTE which had been suppressed for long years. Parents said that since the year 2006, when the Security forces launched their "humanitarian" operations the LTTE increased their compulsory child recruitment campaign. The people who lived in LTTE controlled areas were in constant fear of their children being dragged from their homes to be recruited as "child soldiers". The allegations of the IDPs regarding forced recruitment is supported by UNICEF. A recent UNICEF report recorded the LTTE recruited "more than 6000 cases of child recruitment during the years from 2003 to 2008". UNICEF representative Phillipe Duamele said the LTTE intensified forcible recruitment of civilians and that children as young as 14 years old are now being targeted". Many IDP's expressed fear as they were also forced by the LTTE to undergo military training regardless of age or sex and were used to gather "intelligence" and work on constructing LTTE "bunkers". All between 18- 45 were compelled to undergo weapon training .The LTTE levied a tax on every item they produced including their earnings from growing vegetables and paddy to what they earned from the little quantity of milk produced by the few cows and their own labor. The LTTE forcibly collected these taxes on the pretext of fighting the 'last" battle against he Security Forces. They realized from what they saw that the taxes collected were used by the LTTE hierarchy to live comfortably in air conditioned bunkers for which they provided labor while their families lived and educated their children abroad.

There have been a few foreign media reports, probably influenced by memories of Abu Graib and Guantanao Bay mistakenly referred to the Welfare Center as a "prison" due to the use of barbed wire in the perimeter. Military Spokesman Brigadier Udhaya Nanayakkara explained the use of the 'roll' of barbed wire as the perimeter to journalists who visited the Welfare Center on the 23rd. He said the perimeter fence. He said it was needed to ensure security for the IDP's and discourage any elements who could sell illicit liquor inside or harass women resulting in unnecessary problems.

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By Emergency: Sri Lanka
By Country: Sri Lanka
By Source: Government of Sri Lanka
By Type: Press Releases