Muslim, Sinhala IDPs’ right to return to NP should be recognised – President



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


President Rajapaksa

President Mahinda Rajapaksa early this week declared that since the vast majority of internally displaced Tamil people in the Northern Province had been resettled, it was now the responsibility of the government to resettle the Sinhalese and the Muslims chased away by the LTTE.


President Rajapaksa emphasised that the right of all those evicted by terrorists at gunpoint more than 20 years ago to return should be recognised.


The President was addressing a propaganda rally at Ratmalana Railway grounds on Monday (March 10) in support of those contesting the Colombo district on the UPFA ticket.


In an obvious reference to the ongoing attempt to haul Sri Lanka before an international war crimes tribunal, President Rajapaksa said that the release of child soldiers had been conveniently forgotten. The government hadn’t received the appreciation it deserved for the swift release of child combatants, the President said, explaining the speedy rehabilitation and release of combatants.


The President said that society would provide a conducive environment to those returning to civilian life better than detention facilities.


President Rajapaksa said no one could undermine his administration as long as the people were with it.


Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Major General Udaya Perera recently briefed Agnes Asekenye-Oonyu, Head of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on the situation at open welfare centres in Jaffna and the ongoing resettlement project.


Maj. Gen. Perera told The Island that the LTTE had driven people of all three communities out of the Jaffna peninsula during the conflict. The Sinhalese were chased out in the 1980s, the Muslims in 1990 and the Tamils during Operation Riviresa, which regain Jaffna in late 1995. Although the peninsula was brought under government administration in 1996, those the LTTE had driven away had not been able to return, the Major General said.


Major General Perera assured the UN official Sri Lanka’s commitment to resettle the war displaced as soon as possible.


Defence Ministry sources told The Island that the return of about 30 Sinhala families to Navatkuly close to Jaffna had prompted the US Embassy to dispatch its political officer, Michael A. Ervin, to inquire into the circumstances under which they had arrived there. Sources said that the families residing at Navatkuly were among those forced to flee the peninsula at the onset of hostilities in the 1980s. According to the 1981 Census, there had been 19,334 Sinhalese in Northern Province, comprising the administrative districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mannar. The majority of them had lived in the Jaffna peninsula and owned property at the time hostilities erupted.


Ministry sources said that the natural growth of a particular community too, should be taken into consideration before resettlement of those driven out of the Northern Province got underway.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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