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Everybody should rally against false propaganda

Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Minister Risath Bathiyutheen says once the demining activities are completed, the Government will commence the resettlement activities in the North.

Under the Uthuru Wasanthaya programme, the Government has already formulated plans to develop the entire northern province. The Minister in an interview with the Daily News expressed his views on the initiatives taken by his Ministry to resettle the IDPs in the Eastern province and relief measures given to the displaced people in the North who have been temporarily sheltered in welfare centres.

Can you comment on the resettlement activities taking place in the Eastern Province at present?

Of the total number of nearly 200000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the East, the Government has already resettled nearly 99 percent.

The Government will resettle the balance number of IDPs as soon as possible. Under the Eastern Reawakening Programme, the Resettlement Ministry has already introduced livelihood assistance programmes to uplift the income level and the living conditions of these people who have been resettled in each respective village in the Eastern province.

This will facilitate the people to resume their livelihood in relation to various sectors such as agriculture and fisheries.


Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services Minister Risath Bathiyutheen.

On the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, several mega development projects have been commenced under the Eastern Reawakening programme to improve the living conditions of the people in the East. The Ministry has implemented these projects in collaboration with several Ministries, Eastern Provincial Council and the NGOs.

What are the plans formulated by your Ministry to resettle the displaced families in the North?

The Government has wide experience and set an example to the entire world by resettling a large number of IDPs in the Eastern province within a very short period.

The Government could resettle over 40,000 IDPs in Muttur within 40 days by providing them all the necessary infrastructure and other facilities. In addition, of the total number of 200000 IDPs in the Eastern province, the Government could resettle over 90 percent within a year.

The intention of the Government is to resettle the IDPs in the North as soon as possible. But the demining activities have to be completed before these IDPs are resettled in the north.

Therefore, it will take some time to complete these demining activities. Because some of these territories in the north were under the control of the LTTE terrorists for a long time. Once these demining activities are completed, the Government will commence the resettlement activities in the north. Under the Uthuru Wasanthaya programme, arrangements have been made to develop the entire northern province.

What kind of relief measures have been given to the displaced people in the north?

Even before these people returned to the Government controlled areas, on the directive of the President, several rounds of discussions were held under the chairmanship of Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa to discuss ways and means of providing immediate relief measures to these displaced people. As a result, a joint mechanism was formulated in collaboration with all Ministries and the Presidential Secretariat to grant immediate relief to these IDPs.

At present, the Government has provided housing, electricity and all needy facilities to each of the 10,000 displaced families in Kadirgarmar Transit Welfare village and Ananda Kumaraswami Transit Welfare Village. In addition, another three transit welfare villages have been set up in Vavuniya with the assistance of UNHCR, UNICEF and some NGOs.

At present, the Health Ministry has provided health facilities while the Water Board has provided water facilities to these IDPs. The World Food Programme has assisted to provide food to these people.

The Government in collaboration with NGOs has introduced communal cooking to these IDPs who have been temporarily sheltered in welfare centres. Banking, postal and telecommunication facilities have also been provided to these IDPs. The CWE, STC and Salusala have also opened shops for the benefit of these IDPs.

According to the figures, there are 262629 IDPs in Vanuniya, 11,164 IDPs in Jaffna, 1362 IDPs in Mannar and 6642 IDPs in Trincomalee. The Government has established five Transit Welfare Villages and 20 welfare centres in Vavuniya. In addition, the Government has set up six welfare centres in Jaffna,two welfare centres in Mannar and three welfare centres in Trincomalee.

How do you view the facilities given to the IDPs in welfare centres at present? Can you be satisfied with the facilities given to them by the Government?

At present the Government has provided every possible relief measures to the IDPs. Every week the President holds discussions to review the progress in these welfare centres.

All the Ministries, including the Health, Education and the Nation Building Ministries have extended their fullest cooperation to provide needy welfare facilities to these people. We should extend our gratitude to Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil people in the South who have extended their fullest support to the Government to provide relief to these IDPs.

Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa holds weekly progress review meetings with the Heads of the Ministries and other Government institutions to look into the welfare of these IDPs temporary sheltered in these welfare centres. Even various foreign delegates who arrived to Sri Lanka to look into the conditions of the people in these centres have also commended the moves taken by the Government to provide every possible relief assistance to these people within a very short time.

At present terrorism has been eradicated from the entire northern province. What kind of measures should be taken to develop the northern province?

Immediate measures should be taken to resettle all these displaced people in their original villages in the North by providing them all the required facilities. The Government has already given its utmost priority to develop the north and create employment opportunities to the people in these areas. Later a solution should be given which can be accepted by all Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in this country.

Before commencing the resettlement activities in the North, the President has appointed a special Presidential Task Force under the chairmanship of Senior Presidential Advisor MP Basil Rajapaksa to conduct the demining activities and establish civil administration within the northern province.

To fulfill this task, a joint programme has been implemented in collaboration with all the Ministries. The decision taken by the President to establish this special Task Force is a great strength to the Resettlement Ministry to conduct its resettlement activities. This would pave the way for the Ministry to conduct its future activities in a more efficient and productive manner.

How do you view the great military victory achieved by the Government in the North?

The LTTE terrorism was the most burning issue to be solved in this country. Certain elements claimed that the Government was unable to fulfill this task. But under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, our Armed Forces could militarily defeat the LTTE and free the nation from three decades of LTTE terror. This is the greatest victory achieved by the country in our recent history. Therefore, we should salute our valiant Armed Forces and all others who made a great sacrifice to defeat LTTE terrorism.

Eradication of the LTTE terrorism has ensured the security and safety of the Tamils and Muslims in the North and East. Your comments?

Earlier the people in Jaffna were scared even to come to Colombo due to LTTE terrorist activities. Defeat of LTTE terrorism has opened avenues to the people to move freely and re-start their normal lifestyle.

In future, more investors will arrive in Sri Lanka while tourism industry will be further developed. Therefore, the eradication of LTTE terrorism is a great victory achieved by the people of this country.

What kind of political solution should be introduced to address the problems of Tamils and Muslims?

The political solution introduced should be acceptable to all the communities in this country. The APRC is also trying its level best to reach a consensus among all political parties and find a lasting political solution to the ethnic issue.

What do you think of the victory achieved by Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council?

In the 47-member council, 29 voted in favour of Sri Lanka which helped obtain an absolute majority. This is a clear endorsement given by the international community towards the programme initiated by the Government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

They have fully accepted the moves taken by the Government to eliminate terrorism. We should extend our gratitude to some Muslim countries, Asian and African countries who also extended their fullest cooperation towards the moves taken by the Government to defeat terrorism.

Pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora have launched a propaganda campaign worldwide to give a false picture on the current situation in Sri Lanka. How do we counter this campaign?

It will take some time to completely eradicate this false propaganda campaign. Nearly 300000 people who fled from the clutches of the LTTE and returned to the Government controlled areas have clearly stated how they were trapped and harassed by the LTTE.

Therefore, this Tamil diaspora will understand the true picture of the LTTE very soon. This great military victory achieved against the LTTE clearly displayed to the world that this propaganda campaign conducted by the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora was an utter failure.

The LTTE terrorists completely destroyed the childhood and the education of thousands of children in the north during the past three decades. When the innocent children refused to join the LTTE, they were shot and brutally killed by the LTTE. The children in the North have not travelled by a train over the past 30 years.

But some sections of the Tamil diaspora have not understood these atrocities committed by the LTTE.

If this Tamil diaspora is genuinely interested in the Tamil community, they should extend their gratitude to the Government towards the moves taken to wipe out LTTE terrorism from Sri Lankan soil. As a representative of the Muslim community, I also request the Muslim community to rally round to strengthen the hands of the President irrespective of political differences.

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