Responding to a recent UNP pledge to launch an effective resettlement scheme in the North, Northern Province Governor Maj. Gen. (retd) G. A. Chandrasiri said yesterday (21) that the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement programme launched by the government at the end of the war had been successful.
He said that their efforts had even been appreciated by the Tamil community and the international community.
The former Army Chief of Staff and one-time Security Forces Commander in Jaffna told The Island that the resettlement programme should never be a political issue, but a process aimed at the restoration of civil administration in the war-torn areas.
At last week s launch of the UNP general election campaign in Jaffna, UNP and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said a victory for his party would pave the way for a systematic resettlement effort in the North. He also promised to do away with what he called unnecessary high security zones in the North, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula to expedite resettlement.
Chandrasiri said that since the end of the war last May, the government had stepped up resettlement efforts.
He said that there had been some 300,000 war displaced last May, but today there were fewer than 90,000 men, women and children in Jaffna and the Vanni. They, too, would be resettled within the next couple of months, he said, emphasising that resettlement of the war displaced was being carried out with the support of the UN. Responding to a query by The Island, he said that UN authorities had to sanction the return of the war displaced to their villages after the Army and NGOs/INGOs engaged in mine clearing operations had completed their task. He appreciated the support given by the international community to clear mines in the Vanni region, where the Army finished off the LTTE last May.
Chandrasiri said Sri Lanka s rehabilitation efforts had received the backing of the international community. Contrary to criticism, the government had given NGOs and INGOs access to the North, as part of the confidence-building measures now in place. He said that the LTTE had forced the entire Muslim population out of the Northern Province in 1990. But today, they could go back to their villages and regain their property after proving their ownership.
Much progress had been achieved in the rehabilitation of LTTE cadres in the custody of the government, Chandrasiri said.