The 10-member delegation of MPs that visited Sri Lanka had wide ranging interactions with top elected representatives of the Sri Lankan government and with internally displaced persons spread across some four camps.
“It was not a conducted tour. The delegation chose to visit the camps and we did not visit the model camp that they [Sri Lankan authorities] wanted us to,” said a member of the delegation. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Basil Rajapaksa, in an interaction with the MPs delegation, remarked in a lighter vein that the people in the model camp were unhappy because he could not persuade the delegation to visit the camp.
In their meetings with the Sri Lankan leaders, the MPs spoke about the need to find a political solution and to arrive at a consensus on contentious issues at the earliest. Some of them said they came away with the impression that the Sri Lankan government also did not want to sow the seeds of another armed conflict.
While one MP seemed particularly agitated during the meetings, the others engaged in reasoned, healthy and rational exchanges with the Sri Lankan leaders.
“The camps we visited were not too bad. Yes, the heat is oppressive, and when it rains, we will have to see how the camps hold out. But the fact remains that even if you give them five star facilities, people would still want to go back…No one wants to be in a camp indefinitely,” a member said.
On reports that the people of Jaffna were inimical to the delegation’s visit, the members said they felt nothing of the sort. “There were people all around. Now, we have no clue if they were followers of Douglas [Douglas Devananda] only or if others were present. But most of the persons who spoke to us told us about problems. Some also told about the steps that were being taken,” said a representative.
The team members also confirmed that former Union Minister T.R. Baalu spoke in his “usual, brusque manner” to the Government Agent in Jaffna. When the GA was taken aback by his behaviour, the rest of the team consoled her and apologised, while Mr. Baalu, who was unsure what the problem was about, later offered a few words of consolation to her.