Sri Lanka tells India
Most Jaffna Tamils will be resettled in their
own homes in six months

NEW DELHI, May 21: Sri Lanka hopes to resettle most of the quarter million Tamils who fled their homes in the Jaffna peninsula, due to the war that has just ended, in their own original homes in six months.

This was conveyed to India’s National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon when they called on President Mahinda Rajapakse and met other senior officials in Colombo on Wednesday and Thursday, according to an External Affairs Ministry statement released here this evening.

Both sides (Sri Lanka and India) emphasized the urgent need to resettle the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their villages and towns of habitation and to provide to them necessary basic and civic infrastructure as well means of livelihood to resume their normal lives at the earliest possible.

To this end, the Government of Sri Lanka indicated that it intends to dismantle the relief camps at the earliest, and outlined a 180-day plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs in their original places of habitation.

"The Government of India committed to provide all possible assistance in the implementation of such a plan in areas such as de-mining, provision of civil infrastructure and re-construction of houses," the statement said.

The officials Narayanan and Menon met in Colombo included Basil Rajapakse, MP; Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to President, and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. In addition, they also interacted with leaders of several political parties in the island nation.

According to the Indian statement, both sides agreed that, with the end of military operations in Sri Lanka, the time is "opportune to focus attention on issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and re-conciliation, including a permanent political solution in Sri Lanka."

The two sides also emphasized the urgent necessity of arriving at "a lasting political settlement" in Sri Lanka. Towards this end, the Government of Sri Lanka indicated that it will proceed with implementation of the 13th Amendment.

"The Government of Sri Lanka also intends to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances, for further enhancement of political arrangements to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka," the statement added.

It may be recalled that, following their agreement of 26 October 2008, both sides have been co-operating in providing humanitarian relief and assistance to IDPs in Sri Lanka. This includes medical assistance in the form of a field hospital, urgently needed medicines and medical supplies as well as food, clothing and shelter material.

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