Describing as challenging the task of removing mines for speedy resettlement of Tamil refugees, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday said these explosives would have to be cleared from the North, which was once held by the LTTE, without leaving any margin for error.
“The speedy resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) once affected by (LTTE) terrorism is engaging our utmost attention. It is a significantly more difficult task than most would imagine,” Mr. Rajapaksa said, addressing the 8th Ministerial Meeting of Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) here.
Mr. Rajapaksa had also assured an Indian MPs’ delegation, which left the Island nation on Wednesday after a five-day visit, that 58,000 of the 2.53 lakh internally displaced Tamils would be sent home from the camps in the next fortnight and the rest in a phased manner
He told the ACD meeting that the process of de-mining would have to be carried out with “great care and attention.”
For the government, the key objective that the internally displaced are able to depart from the temporary facilities, where they are at present accommodated, to their homes, “at the earliest possible opportunity,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
“But resettlement has to be approached with care. Large areas where people lived or used for economic activity, such as agriculture, have been extensively mined by the terrorists,” he said. “Those mines have to be removed, but de-mining takes time as it has to be done with great care and attention, leaving no margin for error.”
On the progress towards peace since the defeat of the LTTE in May, Mr. Rajapaksa referred to the recent local body elections in North.
“Democracy in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka was severely damaged by terrorism. I am proud to state that my Government has re-introduced to those parts of our country, this fundamental entitlement. We have had elections in both the North and the East,” he said.
“Former militants entered the democratic process, choosing the ballot over the bullet, and now serve in the legislatures at both provincial and national levels,” he said.
Mr. Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan government was now engaged in rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by terrorism and stimulating economic development. “We are also continuing to ensure the further strengthening of the human rights.”
“At the same time, we believe that our defeat of terrorism could be an encouraging example, to the rest of the international community. While we had the political support of many friendly nations, success came mainly through our own effort,” he told the foreign delegates.
“The conclusion to be drawn is perhaps, that the problems of a country can only be resolved by those who know best its ground realities, namely, by its own people,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.
He also said that over the last seven years, ACD made key advances in terms of identifying 20 areas of cooperation and now there needs to be more of a focus on follow-ups.
“The countries of Asia, and many others, too, are today carrying the burdens caused by poor regulation... It is a challenge that seeks new solutions,” he said.