The Sri Lankan government has assured a 10-member delegation of MPs that 58,000 internally-displaced Sri Lankan Tamils in camps will be sent back to their native places in 15 days.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who received the delegation at the Chennai airport on Wednesday evening, announced this, addressing a press conference later at his party headquarters.
The remaining Tamils would be returned gradually. Totally, there were about 2.5 lakh people in the camps, Mr. Karunanidhi said, adding that the move of the Sri Lankan government was in response to the request made by the team that the internally-displaced Tamils be returned to their homes before the advent of rains.
Mr. Karunanidhi told journalists that the team had furnished elaborate information to Colombo on attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy on fishermen of Tamil Nadu. Colombo agreed to ensure that this would not recur. For this purpose, it sought help from the Indian government.
He explained that his government had pointed out to the Union government that the Centre’s quick response to Sri Lanka’s request for help in demining operations would remove the Tamils’ misery. To queries whether the resettlement of internally-displaced Tamils was delayed, citing the reason of demining operations, the Chief Minister replied that he was sharing with the media information furnished by the team. He counselled patience.
To a question whether the Sinhalese would be settled in areas where Tamils lived traditionally, the Chief Minister replied that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had denied it.
Asked for his reaction to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Jayalalithaa’s criticism of the team’s visit, Mr. Karunanidhi’s answer: “Let us wait and see whether any purpose would be served or not.” On the condition of amenities in the camps, he said there were some shortcomings.
In a statement, the Chief Minister said efforts were being made for the welfare of Tamils and cited Mr. Rajapaksa’s assurance to the MPs that a settlement, acceptable to all sections would be found.