The withdrawal of foreign aid workers and Non Governmental Organisations from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, the last of the LTTE territory, would not hinder humanitarian activities as a well organised government mechanism is operating in these areas through government agents, their staff and other state officials, Defence Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the Sunday Observer. He said the government took this firm decision to avoid unfortunate incidents.
`The INGOs and NGOs were mainly involved in development projects in uncleared areas but under the prevailing situation they cannot carry out any development projects there. The other reason is that we cannot guarantee the safety of their lives as the military offensive has been intensified`, he said.
The Defence Secretary said that these workers were given deadlines to reach government controlled areas but if they continue to remain defying instructions, the government could not take responsibility for their safety in future.
He said that the government is particularly keen about the safety of the UN staff and as the offensive is getting stronger, the government has instructed the UN to set up their offices in Vavuniya`. The UN is engaged in humanitarian relief activities. They are allowed to operate from Vavuniya and hand over the relief to GAs`, he said.
The Defence Secretary said that the government would follow the normal procedure as the government mechanism is fully active in the Wanni providing humanitarian assistance.
He said the government had successfully handled and resettled 170,000 IDPs after the liberation of the East and a similar number of displaced people is expected once the security forces liberate Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. `We have already taken steps to provide facilities to them`he said.
The Defence Secretary also said that the IDPs` problems in the East had been well addressed within a short period of time.
Explaining how the government looked after the highest number of IDPs in the country in 1996 during `Operation Riviresa` where over 400,000 IDPs fled to government controlled areas, he said the government has wide experience in providing facilities for the exodus of people fleeing non-liberated areas and it was proven with the successful resettlement in Mavil Aru, Vakarai, Sampur and Thoppigala, where civilians were being used as human shields by the LTTE prior to the Eastern liberation.