The International Monetary Fund’s board of directors approved a $2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka last week. The vote was not without controversy. There are currently hundreds of thousands of ethnic-Tamil civilians trapped in military run concentration camps that are largely off-limits to international humanitarian organizations and international media. These hundreds of thousands of people streamed out of the conflict zone in April during the waning days of Sri Lanka’s long civil war. Ban Ki Moon has called the largest of these camps, Manik Farm, “the most appalling scenes” he has witnessed.
The loan’s defenders say that Sri Lanka needs this money to address a “balance of payments” that, if left unaddressed, “could have a devastating effect on the economy and people.” Not all member states bought that argument–or at least thought it sufficient to overcome their human rights concerns. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina and Germany, which collectively represent over a third of the IMF executive board’s voting shares, did not vote to approve the loan.
Meanwhile, former UN Dispatch Human Rights Salon participant and current assistant secretary of state for refugees Eric P Schwartz visited Manik Farm. Speaking to reporters outside the camp on Monday, Schwartz announced $8 to help the resettlement of the IDPs. From the Associated Press:
He said the U.S was “deeply concerned about a range of issues where further progress is essential.”
“In particular the vast majority of displaced persons remain confined to camps,” he said.
“Moreover there remain burdensome limitations on access to those camps for those international humanitarian organizations and others who are in a position to ameliorate the conditions faced by these victims of conflict,” he said.
Schwartz says he received assurances from top officials in Columbo that the displaced will be allowed to return home soon. I suppose we will have to wait and see if these officials follow through on their committments and obligations to international law.