Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 1 November 2009





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Government Gazette

Another first in resettling IDPs

Sri Lanka, after becoming the first country to eradicate terrorism through a successful humanitarian operation, has reached another first by resettling the displaced persons in double quick time.

Just five months after liberating the entire country from the clutches of LTTE terror, the Government has successfully resettled more than 100,000 people.

Despite facing many obstacles and logistical problems such as the clearing of landmines, development of the road network, construction of houses and supply of essential items, the Government has successfully resettled over 100,000 displaced people under the 'Uthuru Wasanthaya' (Northern Spring) program.

Though there had been some concocted stories by a handful of opportunistic politicians and certain International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) with vested interests, the masses are now overjoyed with the sweeping changes taking place in the Northern Province.

Perhaps, the conditions in the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) may not seem impressive to opportunistic Opposition politicians. But the international community and even certain INGOs which had been critical of the Government during the recent humanitarian operations, have openly commended the improved facilities at IDP camps.

Infrastructure development in the North and the East is going ahead at a rapid pace. People in the East have already started contributing to the national economy. Once the people in the North too make a similar contribution, the country could achieve significant economic development.

Moreover, tourism, agriculture and dairy industries have shown a marked improvement and once those sectors reach their peak levels, Sri Lanka could establish an all-time high economic development.

The livewire behind the massive development and resettlement programs in the North and East is none other than Senior Presidential Advisor and Parliamentarian Basil Rajapaksa who is engaged in an ambitious program to provide a better tomorrow for those displaced as a result of LTTE terror.

Out of the 285,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North, 100,000 have already been resettled in their own villages and hometowns. One of the main constraints in resettling the IDPs in their hometowns or villages was the time needed to clear the areas through a speedy de-mining process. The aim of the Government is to clear the areas where people have to be resettled, of the large number of landmines that had been laid by the LTTE.

The Government has accelerated the de-mining process after acquiring 14 de-mining machines to quicken the process and the entire Mannar District will be cleared by early next month. The LTTE indiscriminately used mines even in civilian populated areas, demonstrating the total disregard they had for international humanitarian norms and for civilian lives.

Unfortunately, only a handful of friendly countries supported Sri Lanka in the battle against terrorism. Hardly any international organisation or INGO exposed the grave inhuman acts of Velupillai Prabhakaran and his ruthless terror outfit.

With the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, large quantities of mines laid by the LTTE in former LTTE-dominated areas are being recovered by the Army.

Initially, there was a big hue and cry over the resettlement of IDPs, but the Government's aim was to obtain a security guarantee for those areas as it cannot risk civilian lives due to landmines. But most of those who levelled allegations on the resettlement process have now understood the genuine efforts of the Government to find a secure future for the displaced people.

A responsible Government cannot allow its people to become victims of landmines. That was precisely why the Government had to take a few months to resettle the IDPs. The Sri Lanka Army, during the humanitarian de-mining operations, cleared over 40 million square metres. Approximately 10,000 mines and Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXOs) in the Wanni, have been recovered to date.

The common theme linking all these is the humanitarian consideration. All remaining displaced persons at IDP camps would be resettled in double quick time, preferably before the end of this year. The objective of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to resettle all IDPs soon and ensure that normality returns to the North and East with adequate security for the people. The speedy resettlement of IDPs is a critical element of national reconciliation.

Countries such as the United States have welcomed the Government's acceleration of the resettlement of IDPs. The Government has already announced that it plans to resettle a further 40,000 IDPs in the next few weeks.

There were many developments in Tamil Nadu over the IDP issue in the North.

But the Government was transparent and invited a group of Tamil Nadu politicians here to gain firsthand information. They were more than happy to observe the steps taken by the Government for the betterment of the IDPs.

Certain opportunistic Opposition politicians made desperate attempts to gain political mileage through the IDP problem, but now, the truth has emerged victorious. India is satisfied with the steps taken by Sri Lanka to rehabilitate the displaced. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Preneet Kaur has said that they are happy with the progress.

The Government headed by President Rajapaksa has a proven track record when it comes to the eradication of terrorism and resettlement of displaced persons. First, it was in the Eastern Province and now, the resettlement program is continuing in the North even faster.

As many world leaders have pointed out, Sri Lanka is an example to the world when it comes to counter-terrorism activities and the resettlement of displaced persons. President Rajapaksa and his Government handled both these issues in an exemplary manner, throwing aside many allegations by interested parties. They will no doubt successfully complete this noble mission in the near future.



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