Oct 3, 2008

World - Another census move in Sri Lanka

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Now, it’s for citizens of Eastern Province

Exercise to be carried out on October 5
COLOMBO: Unfazed by the criticism from several quarters over its September 21 directive to the citizens of five districts of Northern Province living in and around Colombo (Western Province) to “re-register” themselves with the police, Sri Lanka on Thursday announced that a similar census would be carried out on October 5 for such citizens of Eastern Province .
Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera told a news conference here those citizens from the east, residing in the Western Province since October 2, 2003, would have to register themselves at police stations in their areas.
Citizens from the districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara would have to present themselves at the police stations along with the occupants in the house, national Identity Cards and other documents.
The September 21 registration took place a few days after Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa expressed alarm over what he termed as “unusual exodus” of 6,950 “outsiders” into the Western Province in August. He said in view of the ongoing war it posed a security threat.
The exercise was flayed by some political parties and NGOs as “racial profiling” and harassment of innocent citizens. However, the government insisted that the process was legal and unavoidable.
Defence Spokesperson and Minister Keheliya Rembukwella, who was present at the news conference, said it was the “right of the sovereign government” to undertake a survey of citizens anywhere.
Some political parties have argued that the “police census” amounted to violation of the Supreme Court verdict of May against the eviction of 300 odd citizens from north and east residing in lodges in and around Colombo. The apex court had held that citizens had the right to live in any part of the country.
The outcome of the survey was revealing and raised interesting questions. It showed that the number of people who have migrated since September 21, 2003 stands at 37,037. Of them, 2,242 were “new entries”. In all, 10,820 families were registered. The figure registered with the police, a cumulative number beginning with all those who have been living in and around Colombo since September 2003, would mean on an average 617.28 “outsiders” migrated to the western province on a monthly basis.
In other words, an average of 20.6 persons chose to travel down from north on a daily basis in the last five years. It is a tiny number considering the fact that in population terms the Western Province accounts for over 10 per cent of the 19 million citizens of Sri Lanka.

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