The inter-ministerial talks on resolving the woes of the Tamil refugees in India have resumed. This follows the recent meeting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had with her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in Delhi. The refugee problem is a hangover of the ethnic crisis the island nation had experienced. At one time, there were over three lakh Sri Lankan Tamils in India seeking refugee status. Nearly two-thirds have returned to Sri Lanka or other places. Of the remaining, about 60,000 are in refugee camps enjoying whatever little facilities they are entitled to under UN rules. It is only natural that they want to return to their homeland
As Sri Lanka gears up for a presidential election five years after the end a long separatist rebellion, the country, especially the war-scarred North, faces a raft of unresolved chronic problems. Analysts regard many of them as long-term drivers of conflict.
The front-runners in the January poll are incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented third term (thanks to a constitutional amendment passed by the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), and his former minister of health, Maithripala Sirisena. Both are southerners.
Neither candidate has released his campaign platform. In Sri Lanka’s former war zone in the North, there is widespread apprehension that post-war issues are unlikely to take top-billing.
A former Immigration Department official has condemned Australia’s process of so-called “enhanced screening” of asylum seekers as dangerous and says the department felt pressured by the Prime Minister’s office.