India on Friday admitted that things were “not all that well” in the camps of displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka but assured more assistance to Colombo to resettle all those who have not yet been allowed to return home since the end of the conflict between the island’s armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Speaking in Parliament, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna was pessimistic of Colombo fulfilling its promise of resettling all internally displaced persons (IDPs) within 60 days despite the best of intention and called on the victors to be “magnanimous and [to] protect the weak.”
On Thursday, the government opted for a suo motu statement by Mr. Krishna in the Rajya Sabha before a scheduled calling attention motion was taken up in the Lok Sabha. As clarifications on a Minister’s statement are a norm in the Upper House, the idea was to take the sting out of the Opposition charges before the discussion opened in the Lower House. Mr. Krishna opened his statement amid protests by members over paucity of time to prepare themselves. He was unable to reply to the points on which clarifications were sought, as he had to leave for the Lok Sabha discussion. The Rajya Sabha members unanimously decided to hear him on Monday afternoon.
While conceding that the Sri Lankan time frame of 180 days for complete rehabilitation might not be met, the Minister insisted that India would not accept the situation of the displaced Tamils living in camps for long. New Delhi also wanted proactive steps to reach a political settlement with the minorities [including Muslims].
Colombo informed New Delhi that it had resettled over 1,50,000 IDPs and about an equal number were still in camps. “We understand that more have been resettled recently. We have been assured that by end of January 2010, all IDPs would be resettled.”
India’s additional help would be in the form of three demining teams to supplement the efforts of the four teams already in Sri Lanka, doubling of supply of shelter materials from 2,600 tonnes and sending more consignments of cement for rebuilding damaged houses. It was also thinking of undertaking construction projects in the north and east.
Opting for a detailed mention of the issue of fishermen in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Krishna said a pact on their treatment by Sri Lanka if they crossed the international maritime boundary had had a salutary effect in terms of the number of boats seized and arrests made. At the same time, he called on the fishermen not to venture deep into Sri Lankan waters (where the catch is better).