Basil Rajapaksa, MP, yesterday said the unprecedented rapid pace at which the government had re-settled the internally displaced families in the Eastern Province after the conclusion of major ground operations had subdued misgivings among the international community.
It was an immense task which many had thought was beyond the government s capacity, the National List MP told The Island in a brief interview.
Welcoming the readiness of the international community to support their efforts to revive the Eastern Province, he said the Rajapaksa administration wouldn t disappoint the donors.
He was responding to Opposition criticism of the meetings between representatives of foreign governments and the TMVP and the forthcoming visit to the East by an EU delegation.
There had been many misconceptions about the re-settlement programme. A section of the international community had believed that the government planned to re-settle Sinhalese in the East, he said. `Once, a foreign representative raised this issue with me. He wanted to know whether Vakarai was to be re-settled by the Sinhalese,` he said. `We haven t re-settled a single outsider in the newly liberated area,` he said.
The local government elections in the Batticaloa District in March followed by first election to the Eastern Provincial Council in May (this year) had proved the government s commitment to a lasting solution, he said.
`The political alliance with the breakaway LTTE faction was a courageous decision,` he said. The TMVP successfully contested the Batticaloa MC and the EPC on the government ticket, he said. `It was proof that the government didn t want to place the EP under a military administration.`
`We (UPFA) submitted our nomination papers for the Batticaloa District at the May PC polls in Tamil. It was a simple way of recognizing the value of our relationship with the Tamil community.`
Those who had felt the government programme would be a threat to their agenda finally attempted to pit the Tamils against the Muslims.
Recent meetings between the breakaway LTTE faction (TMVP) and members of the international community and the forthcoming visit to Trincomalee by a high level EU delegation would give a turbo-boost to their efforts. What the TMVP had achieved in a few short months was astonishing, he said, while inviting the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to join their efforts to re-build the EP. There was absolutely no point in being the mouthpiece of the LTTE, the MP said.
`We met every challenge, every difficulty head-on. Many expected us to fail and collapse under the LTTE and diplomatic pressure,` he said. `Even now some are fervently hoping for an LTTE comeback,` he said.
The influential politician expressed confidence that the government had the strength to finish off Tigers in the Vanni, thereby facilitating restoration of civilian administration in all parts of the country.
He said many were sceptical about the decision to bring Sampur under government control in September, 2006. `They expected us to fail there. Even after we forced the LTTE to abandon the area, they believed the enemy could come back,` he said. The military success at Sampur was repeated elsewhere in the East over the following year until the army launched operations in the Vanni.
At one point during the EP operations, there had been around 200,000 internally displaced with the vast majority being stranded in the Vakarai region, he said. Even before the army brought Thoppigala-Narakkamulla area under their control, the re-settlement of IDPs had been well underway, he said. Today almost 95 per cent of the re-settlement had been finalised and the remaining would be settled as soon as ongoing mine clearing operations come to an end, he said.