06/30/2009, 00.00
INDIA – SRI LANKA
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After spending billions on refugees India criticises Sri Lanka for doing little or nothing

India’s Home Affairs Minister Chidambaram calls on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government to “make all arrangements” for refugees “to return if they voluntarily want to go back.” Just a week ago Sri Lankan authorities were reassuring, saying refugees would be home in six months.

Chennai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India’s Home Affairs minister had harsh words for the government of Sri Lanka. P. Chidambaram has accused Sri Lankan authorities of not doing enough for war refugees despite the fact that New Delhi has already allocated five billion rupees (US$ 100 million) to help rehabilitate them.

Speaking in his own constituency in Tami Nadu, the Indian State with the largest number of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, Mr Chidambaram said that Colombo must “make all arrangements for them to return if they voluntarily want to go back."

At the same time he called on Sri Lanka to implement the 13th Amendment to its constitution, which transfers powers to the regions and guarantees regional governments a high level of autonomy. Tamils have been calling for much the same as part of a political solution to their demands.

Chidambaram’s criticism comes less than a week after a Sri Lankan delegation led by Basil and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brothers of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and respectively the president's Special Envoy and his Defence Secretary, held talks in New Delhi with Indian officials in which they said that the country’s 300,000 war refugees would be home within six months.

New Delhi, which is also involved in de-mining operations in northern Sri Lanka and is spending billions of rupees in emergency assistance for refugees, wants refugee camps dismantled as soon as possible.

Sri Lankan authorities have frequently contradicted themselves on how long refugee rehabilitation would take place so that Tamil refugees could be back home.

They are also still unwilling to allow humanitarian organisations and media into the camps.

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