RESETTLEMENT OF DISPLACED CIVILIANS
ACCELERATES IN SRI LANKA
New figures released by the government of Sri
Lanka show that the number of displaced people living in government-run
welfare centers has dropped by nearly 50,000 as people continue
to return to their homes.
According to the Ministry of Disaster Management
and Human Rights, the welfare centers housed 248,813 people as
of Aug. 13. That’s about 50,000 fewer than in June, when
the centers held nearly 300,000 people.
Some of the reduction occurred when about 10,000
people recently returned to their homes in the northern cities
of Mannar and Jaffna, where extensive de-mining has taken place.
Another 10,000 elderly civilians have been released to their families,
or have voluntarily entered senior citizen centers.
Additionally, the government announced Tuesday
that another 15,000 displaced families will soon be returned to
their homes in the Jaffna area.
"We have already sent the details of over 15,000 families
to the Police , Jaffna Government Agent and respective Divisional
Secretariats to ascertain whether they are permanent residents
in the Jaffna district," the government said.
Once complete, that round of resettlements will
mean that the government has returned more than 20 percent of
the displaced population to their homes.
The civilians living in the welfare centers were
displaced by fighting in the north during the closing months of
the 25-year-long conflict between the government and the terrorist
group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). As government forces
defeated the LTTE in May, civilians held hostage as a human shield
by the LTTE escaped and flooded into the government-run centers,
swelling their populations.
The Sri Lankan government immediately requested
international aid. The United Nations and International Committee
for the Red Cross are just two of the more than 50 aid organizations
now working in Sri Lanka.
The government has pledged to return most of
the displaced to their homes in the north, where the conflict
concluded, by the end of this year. Government officials said
recently that resettlement of civilians in the Jaffna District
will definitely be completed under the “Uthuru Wasanthaya”
(Northern Spring) 180-day accelerated programme, according to
Resettlement requires the removal of an extensive
number of landmines placed by the LTTE. A number of nations have
pledged landmine removal aid. The government has also launched
a broad re-construction effort in the north to rebuild more than
80,000 homes, as well as to repair neglected water and sewer works,
roads, bridges and public buildings.
As part of the re-settlement effort, the first
post-conflict regional elections were recently held in the northern
cities of Jaffna and Vavuniya. On Aug. 8 voters in Vavuniya elected
a majority of five candidates of the Tamil National Alliance's
Ilanghai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK) to the 11 member municipal
council. A party of a former Tamil militant faction that opposed
the LTTE won three seats, and the ruling coalition United People's
Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won two.
In Jaffna, the UPFA won 13 seats on the council
there and ITAK took eight.
The LTTE’s former presence in those areas
meant that elections hadn’t been held in Jaffna since 1999
and in Vavuniya since 1994.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
19 August 2009