'Lankan govt deliberately delaying rehabilitation of Tamils'

"The government is deliberately keeping the internally displaced persons inside those (relief) camps," former Prime Minister and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe has said.

Wickremasinghe claimed that the conditions in the welfare camps were not satisfactory and said, "If you look at the refugee camps the basic requirements are not being met."

"There are still complaints of shortage of basic requirements. Families are still separated.

Why cannot the families brought together?" the former prime minister asked.

He told a private channel last night that the Tamil people from Wanni want to go back to their home in the North at the earliest and they had sought funds for the purpose.

"Those 70 per cent of the houses (in Wanni) were not damaged. They were only partially damaged. Similarly, there are areas that are unmined," he said apparently reacting to the government's contention that the people could be sent to the north only after the demining process was over.

"The people (in Wanni) had said give us money so that we could sustain ourselves during one cultivation period. And after that we can stand on our own," he said.

Wickremasinghe also claimed that the ruling coalition at the centre denied opposition requests to visit the Wanni welfare camps.

"Opposition has not been given the right to go into the camps. We have been denied that and we have gone to courts. So it is a deliberate policy," he said.

"So then what does the (Lankan) government do. They are collecting money. The Indian government has send Rs 500 crore for humanitarian relief. And they have announced in the Letter of Intent with IMF (for the USD 2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka) that they are going to put more resources to undertake reconstruction of the North," he said.

Wickremasinghe said the government would be able to raise resources for the purpose only through greater taxes.

Rejecting the opposition charges on the IMF loan, a senior official had said the government has not agreed to any condition that is harmful to the country's economy.

"How can they reconstruct the Wanni when the people are all inside camps? They are asking other countries to help them. What are you going to do with the money? Going to exploit the IDPS to get the money. And who is going to pocket it? So this has become a scandal, both in Sri Lanka and outside," Wickremasinghe alleged.

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