The newly appointed Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in Southern India, Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, said his objective was to strengthen the “excellent relations” of his country with southern India, especially with Tamil Nadu.
Speaking to The Hindu on a range of issues, Mr. Krishnamoorthy, a Tamil of recent Indian origin whose ancestors migrated from Ramanathapuram three generations ago, said the two countries shared political, economic and cultural ties. “Today we are looking at the SAARC and South Asia, but bilaterally we are close neighbours,” he added. “We have also signed a free trade agreement with India. So India could become number one in terms of imports and exports. In terms of our bilateral relations we have the best of times. In my time I will work towards strengthening it.”
The Deputy High Commissioner expressed his gratitude for India’s help in rehabilitation and resettlement programmes, adding that the welfare camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) were “in very good condition.”
He explained that his government had adequately addressed the concerns raised over the preparedness of the camps to tackle the monsoon. “The government’s priority,” he reiterated, “is the convenience and safety of the IDPs. When the monsoon comes, the drainage is important. So 80 per cent of the drainage system, in a short span of time, anticipating many difficulties, has been created. The rest of the drainage, I think, will be constructed within a week.”
Mr. Krishnamoorthy said the Sri Lanka government and President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the utmost priority to the security of the IDPs and 10,593 IDPs were already resettled in their original places. A total of 22,668 IDPs had been released from different camps on the basis of medical needs and humanitarian considerations. Senior citizens, religious leaders, foreign visa holders, university students, and pregnant mothers had also been released.
He pointed out that the government had launched the National Framework Proposal for reintegration of ex-combatants into civilian life in Sri Lanka, to safeguard the human rights of ex-combatants and to protect and assist them in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka to ensure sustainable peace and reconciliation.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy said mines remained a major obstacle to the resettlement and the government had imported machines to speed up demining. “We imported demining machines from Croatia. It cost 270 million in Sri Lankan rupees and so within a short time, that is in the last five months 26,734 anti-personnel mines, 26 landmines, 26 death traps, and 31 pressure bomb reels were removed. We also imported 5 machines from Slovakia for 260 million rupees.”
The Sri Lankan government had resource constraints, he explained, but President Rajapaksa had assigned the highest priority to development works. “He wants to ensure empowerment and equality so that every citizen, notwithstanding their birth or culture, is treated the same way. He wants to establish a bilingual nation with equal rights for all. The President’s vision is to make a unified country.”
A new city was planned at Mangulam, modelled on New Delhi, and nearly 5,000 acres of agricultural land were being made cultivable. The complete vision would be seen in the President’s manifesto for the upcoming polls, Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner told The Hindu.