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* Delays in releasing Tamil political prisoners by the Sri Lankan government raise concerns
Sun, Feb 22, 2015, 09:11 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 22, Colombo: Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka C V Wigneswaran has expressed concern over the delay in releasing Tamil political prisoners by the new government.

Mr. Wigneswaran has reportedly accused Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of playing for time over the issue.

Mr. Wigneswaran has told the New York Times that he fears the Prime Minister has refused to release prisoners because he does not want to anger the Sinhalese majority ahead of parliamentary elections.

"I'm talking of a history of not living up to promises in the past," Mr. Wigneswaran has said. "The prime minister wants to play for time because the elections are coming."

Even without a verified list of prisoners, Mr. Wigneswaran has been quoted as saying that dozens who are widely known to be held for political reasons could be released immediately.

Mr. Wickremesinghe meanwhile told the New York Times that a tentative list of prisoners has already been created.

"I just want it to be verified twice over from my end before we say here's the final list," Mr. Wickremesinghe has said.

"We should have it by March. And if there are any secret camps, you can close it down and get these people."

Mr. Wickremesinghe has suspected that there are "a few hundreds, not thousands" detained as prisoners.

"There are people who are missing whose names are not found anywhere," which means they either "are not among the living or they left the country," he has said.

Sri Lanka's major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) recently alleged that a secret military camp in the naval base in Trincomalee was in operation and held 700 Tamils and 35 Tamil families.

TNA Jaffna district parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran has told the 'BBC Sandeshaya' that the Tamil people are of the belief that there were many more of such camps.

The New York Times report quoted Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in a separate interview as saying that frustrations over the delays were understandable.

"Nobody seems to know who they are, even those who ought to know," Mr. Samaraweera has said of the prisoners. "The officials themselves may have been too intimidated to ask questions about things they ought to know."


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