Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered the resettlement of every single displaced person in the war between the security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which concluded exactly six months ago, by January 31.
Senior Presidential Advisor and Parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksa, who visited the Menik Farm welfare village in Vavuniya on Saturday morning, made the announcement on behalf of the President.
Major General Kamal Gunaratne, Competent Authority (CA) for the government-run camps in the north, where the war displaced are lodged, told The Hindu over the telephone that the Senior Presidential Advisor also announced that from December 1, the remaining Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are free to travel wherever they wished.
“Those wanting to travel out of the relief camps can get into the convoy of buses from Vavuniya to Jaffna and visit their relatives, friends and well wishers. They can return to the camp by the same convoys”, Maj. Gen. Gunaratne said.
The Competent Authority further said that each of the resettled people would be provided with Sri Lankan Rs. 5,000 in cash, a savings bank account worth Sri Lankan Rs. 50,000, 6 months of ration and an emergency kit with roofing and bed sheets.
Confinement of nearly 2.9 lakh war displaced behind heavily guarded barbed wired camps and the lack of freedom of movement has been a major issue of concern within and outside Sri Lanka since the end of the Eelam War IV in May.
Rajapaksa targeted on war displaced
With Presidential and parliamentary election round the corner, the opposition parties have been targeting the Mahinda Rajapaksa government on this count.
General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka, who is being openly talked about by influential sections of the opposition as their possible consensus Presidential candidate, cited the travails of the war displaced as one of the 16 reasons that prompted him to seek pre-mature retirement from the position of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
In his resignation letter to President Rajapaksa, the former Army Chief had said, “The plight of the IDPs is also a point of great concern to me. Thousands of valiant soldiers sacrificed their valuable lives to liberate these unfortunate civilians from the brutality and tyranny of the LTTE in order that they could live in an environment of freedom and democracy. Yet, today many of them are continuing to live in appalling conditions due to lack of proper planning on the part of the government and the IDPs who have friends and relatives elsewhere in the country must be given the choice to live with them until proper demining has been done in their areas.”
On Thursday Mr. Rajapaksa told the visiting UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes in Colombo that 1.43 lakh Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have already been resettled in their places of original habitation with infrastructure facilities and common amenities with full security.
On Friday, the Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told a news conference here that on the instructions of President Rajapaksa, Senior Advisor to the President and Chief of the Presidential Special Task Force on Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the North would be visiting the Vavuniya relief camp as well as the resettled areas to meet resettled IDPs and make important announcements on the decisions of the government to minimise their sufferings.
The Minister had said of the 2.8 lakh war displaced, the total number of IDPs remaining in the welfare centres in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and the hospitals have come down to 136, 328 on Friday.
Recent weeks has seen a sharp rise in return of the war displaced to their original villages in the north. President Mahinda Rajapaksa conveyed the plans of his government to re-settle all the war displaced by end 2009 to high power senior officials led by the National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.
A few weeks ago Mr. Rajapaksa had told a 10-member delegation of ruling-combine MPs from Tamil Nadu, which visited Sri Lanka from October 10 to 15 that 58,000 internally-displaced Tamils in camps would be sent back to their native places within a fortnight.