Sri Lanka has said that it wants more time to settle the internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to infrastructural constraints and the danger of landmines at their original habitats.

“Don't ask for a time frame. It will happen quickly. We have settled a large number of people in record time with about 1,000 leaving the makeshift camps on a daily basis. But we have to give people infrastructure and demine the areas. We can't let people be blown up,” diplomatic sources said.

Sri Lankans of Tamil origin who went to Tamil Nadu can come back, but would have to do so voluntarily. Colombo's first priority was to resettle the IDPs uprooted during the war between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), they said.

‘No amnesty'

On the arrest and court-martial of the former army chief and presidential candidate Sarath Fonseca, the sources said he would have the opportunity to exonerate himself of the charges at the trial.

They ruled out the possibility of an amnesty because “this is a process which can't be wished away.” Besides, Sri Lanka wants to maintain a distance between the military and politics by “following the traditions in India.”

There were many in Sri Lanka who felt General (retd.) Fonseca's military career had dovetailed into his brief innings in politics. After losing the presidential election to Mahinda Rajapaksa, he is now the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna-led Democratic National Alliance's candidate in Colombo district.

On the Parliamentary elections next month, the sources said Colombo wanted a credible Tamil leadership to emerge to replace people like former LTTE militant Karuna and other former soldiers from the militant organisation who were “tainted.”

The country wanted to take time before beginning the process for devolution of powers and amending the Constitution in order to widely consult all stakeholders. “We would like to address two main points. Whatever set-up is decided should be generally acceptable to all sections of the population, and second, the change should be permanent,” the sources said.

Sri Lanka was also thinking of replacing the proportionate representation, which perpetuated coalition governments, with a first-past-post system.

‘Be considerate'

The sources said the country needed the support of India and Tamil Nadu to bridge the ethnic divide, but that they should be considerate and understanding because “we have our own ideas and concerns.”

They felt that the Sri Lankan diaspora, especially Tamils, should not be a drag on the healing process.

“None will return but they are theorising and giving the kind of ideas that will not work in Sri Lanka. We want understanding and support to diminish the importance of those elements who have become increasingly divorced from ground realities in Sri Lanka and are theorising in a virtual world despite the LTTE's downfall,” the sources said.

Correction

The name of the former Sri Lankan Army Chief, and who unsuccessfully contested the presidential candidate, is Sarath Fonseka, and not Fonseca as mentioned in a report “Sri Lanka wants more time to resettle IDPs” (March 23, 2010). We had issued a similar correction on January 21, 2009.

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