India on Thursday expressed its readiness to provide further humanitarian assistance, on the request of Colombo, for the welfare of nearly 2.5 lakh war-displaced people housed in the refugee camps of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province.
The assurance was conveyed by visiting Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in a meeting on the sidelines of the 8th Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial Meeting here.
Ms. Kaur told Mr. Bogollogama that New Delhi was aware of the difficulties faced in the de-mining and resettlement process and is ready to discuss the possibility of increasing assistance to Sri Lanka.
She referred to the offer of assistance for rebuilding the Duraiappa Stadium and establishing a cultural centre in Jaffna. Mr. Bogollogama said that though de-mining work carried out by the Sri Lanka Army and the Indian de-mining teams was progressing expeditiously, more assistance was required to complete the process.
India is already committed to give Rs.500 crore to meet requirements for the welfare and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Mr. Bogollogama told Ms. Kaur that from the perspective of his Government, everything possible was being done to improve conditions in the IDP welfare villages. He briefed her on the Sri Lankan Government’s initiatives in resettling the IDPs and explained the difficulties encountered in the progress.
Sri Lanka, as Chair of the 8th Ministerial Meeting, convened the Coordinating Group Consultations of the ACD to discuss matters pertaining to the 8th ACD Ministerial Meeting.
A statement by the Foreign Ministry said the Group Consultations highlighted, among others, the need to renew the mandate of the High Level Study Group — comprising representatives of all 31 member states — to review the progress of projects under the identified 20 areas of cooperation, such as Poverty Alleviation, Environment Education, E-education, Energy, Small and Medium Enterprises, Information Technology, etc, and to strengthen cooperation to facilitate the clusters of Trade, Tourism and Transport.
In his key-note address at the meeting, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajpaksa again assured the international community of his Government’s commitment to a speedy resettlement of the war-affected displaced Tamil civilians. However, he said that de-mining activity may take some time.
Mr. Rajapaksa told the delegates that the military defeat of the LTTE was achieved mainly through Sri Lanka’s own efforts, and that Asia can rebuild itself through greater reliance on its own people. He added that Asian economies are facing hardships caused by others who should share the burdens of recovery.
Postal services resume
Meanwhile, postal transportation to Jaffna via a land route recommenced on Thursday and mail bags will be sent up to Vavuniya by train. “These would be taken to Jaffna on the A-9 route by a Sri Lanka Transport Board bus from Vavuniya,” said Post Master M.K.B. Dissanayake.
The Government is in the process of normalising the public administration system in the north to cater to the public. “Public affairs in the north were hindered as a result of LTTE terrorism over the past three decades,” a Government statement said.
Further, a programme to register the marriages of internally displaced couples living in the welfare villages of Vavuniya has been launched.
Under the programme by the Equal Access to Justice Project of the United Nations Development Programme, with the guidance of the Uthuru Wasanthaya Task Force, 27 couples in the Zone Kadirgamar Nagar welfare village who had not registered their marriages exchanged vows and received marriage certificates.
“The majority of them had been prevented from entering into wedlock due to the LTTE’s ban on marriage in 2008. The documentation process relevant to marriage registration done with the participation of Ananthi Jeyarathnam, Assistant Registrar-General of Vavuniya, was accompanied by Hindu and Catholic customary marriage ceremonies providing couples the opportunity to solemnise their marriages,” the Government said.