B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was not present in Parliament on Thursday as the House passed the motion to extend the State of Emergency for another month by a majority of 87 votes.

The government meanwhile announced that the nearly 2.5 lakh war displaced persons living in the northern transitional relief villages can seek accommodation with their relatives residing outside these centres.

The Emergency motion was supported by 100 parliamentarians and 13 members of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) voted against. It is for the first time the JVP has stayed away from Parliament when the motion was tabled.

Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Rishad Bathiudeen said the displaced, after clearance of identities and relationships, would be allowed to leave these centres. The decision, coming into effect this week, had been made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, he said. Proof of the consent of the IDPs to live with their relations should be furnished.

He said the government could not say how many people would be released, but that it would consider all applications from relatives outside the camps. “If the application comes, we will attend to it.”

The government has said it is aiming to resettle about 80 per cent of the refugees by year-end, and Mr. Bathiudeen said most people would be out of the camps by end-January. “By the 31st of January … we will have more people resettled — the majority of people will be resettled,” he said.

The United Nations welcomed the decision. “It’s something we’ve been advocating for some time, that it’s in the interest of the IDPs to be with relatives, where they can be looked after in a normal community. So we are extremely pleased with this announcement,” according to Neil Buhne, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka.

In recent weeks, pressure has been mounting on the government to release those who faced no charges of links with the LTTE.