The Sri Lankan government has re-settled 85 per cent of the nearly three lakh war displaced Tamil civilians in the Northern Province, according to government spokesman and Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. He told a news conference here that till date 2,67,393 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had been resettled within a year at a rate of 700 IDPs per day.
“Now only 35,333 IDPs remain and they too will be resettled by the end of year. We hope by the end of 2010 they will be no IDPs in the country,” said Mr. Rambukwella.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his recent visit to India had told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the resettlement process would be completed before the end of the year.
Nearly 300,000 civilians fled the LTTE-held area during the last few days of the war and they were all accommodated by the government in temporary welfare centres.
The Minister said according to United Nations norms the security of the people should be guaranteed and there was a legal issue in resettling people in an area where 1.5 million land mines were strewn.
Mr. Rambukwella said that de-mining was a costly and laborious process. Besides help from outside including India, the government has spent, so far, over Sri Lanka Rs. 860 million on equipment used in the de-mining process.
Ninety-five per cent of the de-mining process is conducted by the Army and there is still 12 to 15 per cent of land mines to be cleared in the Kilinochchi area.
“The de-mining programme in the former war affected region is progressing well although it is a very tedious process, as land has to be cleared inch by inch,” said Military Spokesperson Brigadier Ubaya Medawala.
UNDP Senior Programme Manager for Mine Action Wuria Karadaghy said mine clearance remained one of the most important aspects with regard to resettlement.
Separately, the English daily The Island reported that the police and security forces had so far identified 737 hardcore terrorists among the 11,686 LTTE cadre who surrendered and they were being held separately from others undergoing rehabilitation at different government-run centres.
The paper quoted Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Sudantha Ranasinghe as saying those involved in major terrorist attacks would have to be legally dealt with.
Rehabilitation and Law Reforms Minister Dew Gunasekera told The Island that there were two categories of LTTE cadre in government custody. He said: “There are about 600 to 700 men and women arrested over a period of time by successive governments. Among them are persons held in connection with high profile assassination bids targeting VIPs. The second category comprises those, who were taken in during the final phase of Eelam War IV.”
Mr. Gunasekera said they would make every effort to expedite cases of those held on terrorism charges. Acknowledging the difficult task ahead, he said Tamil political parties continued to take up the issue regularly in Parliament.