Plan to close down Jaffna’s IDP camps

refugeeIn an ambitious move, the Sri Lanka government is contemplating closing down all 31 camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Jaffna district of the Northern Province and completing resettlement of 971 IDP families by August 15.

An official document, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, refers to the government’s plan.  But, enquiries with sources reveal that 204 houses are being built in Palaly and Kankesanthurai with the help of the Sri Lanka Army.  When asked by The Hindu, D.M. Swaminathan, Resettlement Minister, asserts that there is no such timeframe to close down the camps. But, he says that “we are doing all what we can.”

Follows Sirisena’s direction

The government’s move follows a direction given by President Maithripala Sirisena while chairing a high-level meeting last month on the resettlement of IDPs. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake were among those who attended the meeting. In December last, when the President visited an IDP camp in Konapulam, near Kankesanthurai, he assured people that he would address their problems in six months.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet of the Sri Lanka government gave an approval for LKR 971 million to build houses at a unit cost of Rs. one million.

While the 204 houses are expected to be ready in a few months, the sources say that the identification of land is under way to take care of the requirements of the remaining 767 families.

Manner of dealing with issue blamed

Finding fault with the manner in which the government is seeking to solve problems of the IDPs, Arunachalam Kunabalasingham, president of the Vali North Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee, a body representing IDPs, says a large number of the IDPs is from places such as Myladdy and there is a 12-km-long coastline still under the control of the security forces. “Without returning the Myladdy fishing harbour and providing free access to the coastline, the government will not be able to achieve much.”  Excluding the landless 641 families, the remaining families were once landowners, who should be given back their original lands, says Mr. Kunabalasingham.

C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, addressing the Provincial Council on Thursday, blamed the Centre for not taking into confidence the provincial administration on matters concerning resettlement. (The Hindu)

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