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After visiting IDP welfare centres:

UN envoy pleased with progress



Dr. Walter Kaelin

While appreciating the efforts made by the government to shelter the IDPs and provide them with all facilities, the Internally Displaced Persons housed at the Menik Farm welfare centre in Vavuniya have told the UN’s top envoy on IDPs that they want to go back to their own villages soon, but that they do not want to suffer under terrorism again.

After visiting the IDP welfare centres and holding discussions with IDP families, the UN Special Representative on IDPs and Human Rights Dr. Walter Kaelin has expressed satisfaction over the government’s plan to provide facilities for the IDPs and the steps taken to resettle them in their own habitats.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights and Disaster Management Prof. Rajiva Wijesinhe, who joined Dr. Kaelin in his tour of the Mannar and Vavuniya welfare centres where the IDPs are sheltered, said that Dr. Kaelin had expressed satisfaction over the steps that the Government had taken to resettle the IDPs.

“His recommendations made in the last report based on his previous visit to Sri Lanka was very helpful to Sri Lanka and this time we had a comprehensive discussion on the resettlement process”, he said.

During his fact-finding mission, Dr. Kaelin had visited Mannar to see the development projects taking place before resettling the IDPs. The Security Forces Commander East and the Competent Authority for Refugees Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne told the ‘Sunday Observer’ that the UN envoy was highly impressed by the development process taking place in Mannar as a prerequisite to resettle IDPs in Mannar. The Sri Lankan delegation including Prof. Wijesinhe, Maj. Gen. Gunaratne and Government Agent P.S.M. Charles have explained to Dr. Kaelin the government plan - not just sending IDPs back to their own villages, but resettling them under a comprehensive plan where they are provided with basic infrastructure facilities - water and electricity and resettling them in landmine-free areas.

“We explained to him that the Government wants to ensure that when the IDPs return to their areas, they are provided with shelter as well as water, electricity, roads, schools, hospitals and facilities for farming and fishing and also that these lands and roads are free of land mines”, he said.

Dr. Kaelin had spoken to the IDP youth who are now undergoing vocational training at the Don Bosco Centre and then visited the massive de-mining site at the Mannar Rice Bowl area where the military is carrying out de-mining operations using over 15 machines.

According to Maj. Gen. Gunaratne, it will take a month to complete de-mining in this area and over 17,000 IDPs would be resettled and given facilities to carry out cultivation in the forthcoming ‘Maha season’. The government school in Adampan, which was badly damaged, the site being de-mining in the same area and the newly reconstructed A-32 Road, bridge and the causeway were also inspected by the UN envoy before he was briefed on the de-congesting and resettlement plans by the GA Charles.

“I explained him the need to maintain a tight security system to prevent the LTTE disrupting the normalcy in the welfare camps.

I told him that though the LTTE was militarily defeated in the North, there are still possibilities that sleeping LTTE cadre are trying to activate themselves”, he said adding that the Government had set up transit camps following UN recommendations to shelter the IDPs until they are resettled in their own areas.

“We have already transferred the IDPs in the Islands around Jaffna, and Vadamarachchi East to the transit centres there and once the areas are safe and provided with the required facilities, they will be sent to their own villages”, Maj. Gen. Gunaratne said.

The Commander said that the UN envoy’s visit, where he had witnessed the true situation in the welfare centres and got an idea of the government plans about a comprehensive resettlement program, would help give a clear picture to the UN. Dr. Kaelin, who had a series of discussions with top government officials including the Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, had a special discussion with the President’s Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa yesterday evening. He is scheduled to conclude his tour today.

 

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