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IDP welfare:

Tangible progress - Akashi

The condition of internal displaced persons (IDPs) in welfare centres in the North has achieved tangible progress compared to his last visit to Sri Lanka, Japanese special envoy Yasushi Akashi said adding that resettlement of IDPs have to be made after demining activities are completed.

Addressing the media yesterday, he said when he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa last morning, he found that the President was very committed to expedite the resettlement of IDPs in their original dwellings. The most important matter is to ensure the security and safety of the people due to the high number of landmines in the area, he said.

The main purpose of his visit was to observe the humanitarian aspects of IDPs and to see how much progress the Government has made towards arriving at a political solution.

Akashi commenting on the humanitarian situation in the North, said it had made a tangible progress compared to his last visit to Sri Lanka, but congestion in those centres is enormous due to the very large number of IDPs.

The Japanese Government will continue to offer all assistance towards peace-building including demining activities, rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the North and other areas in Sri Lanka, he said. The Japanese Government, Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have pledged US $ one billion for development of those areas, he said.

The Government and Non Government Organisations are engaged in a massive effort to improve the conditions of IDPs by providing sufficient food, water, shelter and medicine.

But still it is not fully satisfactory, he said. Sanitation facilities need to be improved to prevent health hazards in centres, he said.

He said he was happy to see medical facilities have been installed by the Indian Government and their staff, taking all measures to treat IDPs as most of these people were undernourished during few weeks of fighting between the military forces and the LTTE.

He said that a full scale resettlement of refugees in their original dwellings should be carried out after demining activities are completed in the North which is a gigantic task.

He also said the Government of Sri Lanka must keep a close dialogue with the international community as during last few months a lot of misconceptions had taken place during heavy fighting prevailed between the Government forces and the LTTE.

He said he was happy to note that President Rajapaksa was committing himself to a political settlement and fully implementation of the 13th amendment to the 1978 Constitution for the devolution of power to the North and East.

Akashi was in island for a short period and visited North to witness the condition of IDPs in welfare centres and met the President, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and many Government top officials.



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