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Sri Lankan government rejects Tamil party's claim, asserts census of missing in war follows international norms

2013 Dec 27

 The Sri Lankan government Thursday has vehemently rejected a claim by the major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance, that the census conducted by the government on human and material losses due to the war will attempt to play down the number of casualties.

The Department of Census and Statistics dismissing the TNA's claim said the census conducted by the Department was done according to international standards and norms with every aspect of loss being addressed.

The TNA claimed that the circumstances of incidences of disappearances and deaths were not accommodated in the census process and the party could not agree with the procedures employed by the Department.

Speaking to local Daily Mirror, the Director General of the Census and Statistics Department, D.C.A Gunawardena has said that the TNA's claim was a "political gimmick".

According to the Director General the census was carried out completely following international standards and practices of data collection.

"We have devised a questionnaire after consultation with a steering committee which comprises experts in their relevant fields and all stakeholders," he was quoted as saying.

The assertion by the TNA is wrong and is based on their politics, the official has said.

The Director General has explained that contrary to the claim by the TNA, the questionnaire comprised the causes of loss and every other factor relating to the loss.

He has said that the census procedure inquired about all the circumstances of a death and also the census officials checked the documents and other material evidence of the relatives or family possessed in order to ascertain the authenticity of their claims.

According to the official, the census was carried out island wide ensuring that all data was gathered without duplication.

"This was not conducted in an ad hoc manner, we provided the technical expertise to the officials who are conducting the census. We are trying our level best to eradicate any duplication or gathering of false data," Gunawardena told the Daily Mirror.

He said the Department was following all internationally laid down procedures in conducting the census.

In accordance with one of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Department of Census and Statistics last month commenced the nationwide census to ascertain details of people injured, disabled, and missing since 1983 up to May 2009.

The survey, carried out in 14,022 Grama Niladhari Divisions, island wide deploying 16,000 officials to collect information, was completed by December 20th. In North one enumerator handled every 500 households while in South every 1000 households were questioned by one.

The report of the island wide survey will be available in March next year, according to the Department.

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