Ponkala and Viayalatha, women in thirties, are a happy lot. In 2006, they had to leave their village Sampoor (about 275 km from Colombo) at the height of an armed conflict between a militant group and the government. About a month ago, they returned to their native place.
On Saturday, the two women were present at an event to mark the commencement of resettlement in the village. President Maithripala Sirisena and his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike, kicked off the process by handing over land deeds to 25 internally displaced Tamils who had owned land in the village.
A local official says that so far, 205 families have come back out of the 825 families forced to flee. The remaining could come only after the Navy vacates the sites it’s occupying. The authorities have sought a few months to shift to a new place.
Ms. Ponkala says large water containers put up in the village are filled every day but there is no power supply. A local official says the Ceylon Electricity Board has installed main lines but feeder lines have not yet been put in place. This will be carried out within a month, the official adds.
Mr. Sirisena assured Tamils of the Northern and Eastern Provinces that his government would work wholeheartedly to provide them facilities and opportunities on a par with what was being made available to people in other parts of the country.
A Ministry will be created to pursue closely the matters of reconciliation and brotherhood, he said. The President, who earlier went to camps of internally displaced people, said he felt sad to see the conditions in which the people had been living.
“More than others, the Tamils know the trauma of war,” he said, exhorting the people to ensure that the country faced no more wars.
D.M. Swaminathan, United National Party leader and who held the portfolio of Resettlement and Rehabilitation till now, said 75,000 houses were built to cater to the post-war requirements of the provinces of the East and the North.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan said the Tamils wanted to lead their lives as equal citizens in a “united, undivided Sri Lanka.”
Eastern Province Chief Minister Z.A. Nazeer Ahamed urged the Central government to turn Sampoor into a model village and an “oasis of peace.”
Eastern Province Governor Austin Fernando, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader, Rauf Hakeem and TNA leaders, Mavai S. Senathirajah, M.A. Sumanthiran and Selvam Adaikalanathan were among those present.(The Hindu)