B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: India on Monday handed over bank drafts worth Sri Lanka Rs. 117million to Sri Lanka for Palaly military-cum civilian runway rehabilitationproject in the Jaffna peninsula, Sri Lanka Defence Ministry announced hereon Wednesday. ($1 fetches Sri Lanka Rs. 114).

Attempts to elicit information from the Indian mission on the quantum of thefirst instalment for the project and remaining phases if any were notsuccessful.

Palaly houses the main base of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in the Jaffnapeninsula. The air base is also used by civilian and military aircraftcarrying Jaffna-bound passengers.

The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry said, "Deepening and strengthening thelong-standing bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and India, the Indiangovernment financially assisted the Palaly Runway Rehabilitation project.

Bank drafts worth of SLRs over 117 million, the second instalment of theIndia's assistance for the project was officially handed over to theSecretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa by Indian High Commissioner to SriLanka, Alok Prasad," it said.

Separately, the Indian mission said since most of the urgent medical needsof the war displaced in the Menik Farm zone assigned to the Indian hospitalhad been met, India has informed Colombo of its intent to de-induct themedical team from August 31.

At the same time, since a very useful facility has been set up, and sincethe physical infrastructure of the hospital remains in place, the Governmentof India has recommended to the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka that itconsider taking over the hospital", it said.

Following a request from Sri Lanka in February 2009, India despatched a62-member medical team and an emergency field hospital on March 10. The teamset up a hospital in Pulmoddai in the eastern province to treat medicalevacuees from the conflict in northern Sri Lanka.

In the next two months, the medical team treated more than 3,000 patientsevacuated by the ICRC to Pulmoddai and catered to the medical needs of wardisplaced in some of the camps in Pulmoddai.

Following the conclusion of the conflict in May, the two governments agreedto shift the medical team and the hospital to the war displaced camps in theMenik Farm area in the Vavuniya district in the last week of May.

At the war displaced camps, the hospital has treated more than 25,000patients.

The hospital has also been distributing free medicines and providingsurgical facilities as required.

In another development, under the Sri Lankan government's resettlementprogramme of the nearly three lakh displaced civilians in the transitionalcentres in the North, 439 families temporarily housed in Vavuniya reliefvillages were sent to their places of origin in the East on Wednesday.This is the first phase of the resettlement scheme of the displaced housedin Vavuniya temporary camps. In addition, the government took steps toresettle 3,112 persons of 1,051 families who temporary occupied variousplaces in Vavuniya but were residents of Jaffna back in their homes in thepeninsula.

A statement by the government said that Parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksaparticipated in the event where these persons were provided transportationfacilities using 70 buses to get to their destinations from the transitionalcamps provided by the government.

Meanwhile the World Food Programme (WFP) has approved a budgetary increaseof $17.09 million for the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO)for Sri Lanka. This increase brings the total PRRO budget to $ 134.9 millionfor the year.

Meanwhile, the Ambassadors of Russia and China to the Conference onDisarmament (CD) were prominent among those who bade a warm farewell toDayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka's outgoing Ambassador/permanent representativeto the U.N. in Geneva on August 4. A statement by the Sri Lankan Genevamission said Russian Ambassador described Dr. Jayatilleka as "a highlyskilled, highly cultured diplomat with a profound knowledge of internationalrelations; very energetic and active, who has his own point of view onevents in his own country and the world, and has contributed to the defenceof the interests of his own country as well as the cause of internationalcooperation.

Chinese Ambassador said Dr. Jayatilleka would be missed "not only because ofhis outstanding wisdom, insight, eloquence and elegance, but because of hisimportant contributions to the work of the CD and the Group of 21.