Rao says IDPs not an issue anymore, offers more assistance

Visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is of the opinion that Sri Lanka has achieved considerable success in the resettlement of IDPs in the North and the East, with the number now standing below 70,000 and the issue has now receded from the attention of the international community, according to a statement issued by the President’s Office.

India was willing to continue assisting Sri Lanka in the resettlement of the IDPs, the President’s Office said.

Excerpts of the statement:

Similarly, India was also keen to assist in the complete restoration of the railway lines in the North, she said.

Rao met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the President’ House yesterday to discuss a range of issues.

Congratulating the President for his resounding election victory, she observed that so much had taken place for the better in Sri Lanka since she was last here as High Commissioner.

The President’s victory gave much cause for confidence and hope for bi-lateral relations between India and Sri Lanka and the Indian Prime Minister looked forward to an early visit by President Rajapaksa to India, she said.

Discussing current political developments in Sri Lanka, she said the presence of more than 1,000 candidates for the upcoming general election in the North and Eastern Provinces alone showed the enthusiasm of the people for the democratic process, and the change that had taken place with the restoration of peace.

"There is a great sense of hope and optimism in the air wherever I have been to," she said.

The Indian Foreign Secretary, who also participated in the opening of the Sri-Lanka-India Centre of English Language Training (SLICELT) at Peradeniya, said the President’s vision to promote the teaching of English in Sri Lanka deserved commendation, and that India was glad to assist in this task.

President Rajapaksa thanked India for the assistance given to the furtherance of his policy of providing English as a Life Skill to Sri Lankan youth.

The participation of more than 3,000 pilgrims from India at the recent feast at the shrine of St Anthony in Kachchativu was an indication of the good interaction between the Sri Lankan and Indian people, she said.

Commenting on the upcoming general election, President Rajapaksa said there was much enthusiasm shown by the people to participate in it, being the first nation-wide election of representatives to parliament after the restoration of peace, and that he was looking forward to working with the many new faces and leaders who are expected to be elected, especially from the North and the East.

Among other matters of mutual interest discussed were the problems faced by fishermen from both counties, the proposed coal-powered power project in Trincomalee, and the necessity for deeper understanding between India and Sri Lanka on the protection of the environment and the eco-systems.

President Rajapaksa later hosted Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to lunch at Janadhipathi Mandiraya.

She was accompanied by the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Shri Ashok Kantha.

President Rajapaksa was joined in the cordial discussions by Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe and Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal.

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