Foreign Secy to visit Lanka, to push for early resettlement of Tamils

Foreign Secy to visit Lanka, to push for early resettlement of Tamils

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who will arrive here on Saturday on a three-day visit, will hold bilateral discussions with top Lankan officials. She will also call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.

"Nirupama Rao is arriving on Saturday night and leaving on Monday afternoon," sources said, adding that she will also visit Kandy in Central Sri Lanka.

Rao will inaugurate an India-funded educational institution in Peradeniya on Sunday, Foreign Ministry sources said.The issue of the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is expected to figure in the discussions between Rao and the Lankan leaders, sources said.

Resettlement has been delayed, particularly in Vavuniya North earlier this month, due to shortage of shelter material, according to the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sri Lanka.

India has taken several initiatives to provide humanitarian relief assistance to IDPs and civilians affected by the conflict in Northern Sri Lanka.Recently, India sent a consignment of 2,600 tonnes of shelter material in addition to 2,600 tonnes sent earlier, according to officials.

India also distributed some 20,000 agricultural starters packs among the displaced families and another 50,000 were sent in December 2009. India has also agreed to establish an artificial limb fitments camp in Northern Sri Lanka.

Besides a team from Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) will conduct a feasibility study for rehabilitation of war widows in Northern and Eastern provinces.Besides providing 4 lakh cement bags, India has also gifted 55 buses to speed up resettlement of the displaced families. In December 2009, India extended USD 425 million credit for railway infrastructure in northern parts of the country.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told the Parliament recently that the government's view was that the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for a new beginning and find a lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka."The way forward lies in a peacefully negotiated political settlement within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, acceptable to all the communities in Sri Lanka including the Tamils," he said.

He told Indian lawmakers that the necessity of reaching a political settlement has been stressed to the Sri Lankan Government.Rao, a former High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, could discuss some of these objectives with top Lankan official.

Rishard Bathiyudeen, Sri Lankan Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, has underlined the government's determination to expedite the resettlement of the remaining 70,000 IDP’s housed in the camps. The government has also stepped up efforts to demine the former war zones in Mullaitivu district and Oddusudan division.

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