03/14/2016, 15.38
SRI LANKA
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President Sirisena returns land to Tamil to reconcile north and south

by Melani Manel Perera

The president returned 701 acres of land to their rightful owners, 650 Tamil families Thelippalei in and 50 in Kopai. The latter is the first village where land seized during the civil war was returned. After 25 years, a village school in Thelippalei is returned. Plans are in the work to build 65,000 houses for displaced people.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena returned 701 acres of land to their rightful owners, 700 Tamils, ​​at a ceremony held yesterday in Nadeswaran Vidyalaya, Thelippalei, in the Jaffna peninsula.

Mr Sirisena stressed the importance of the "process of reconciliation between north and south" and reiterated that his government has a duty "to protect the rights of all citizens".

In response to a group of Southern extremists, who criticised his administration, he urged them to come north to see the poor conditions in which innocent people are living in the camps.

The land the president returned belongs to 650 Tamil families in Thelippalei and another 50 in Kopai.

Kopai is the first place in the country where owners got back land that was forcibly seized by the military during the island nation’s decades-long civil war.

A similar ceremony was held last August, when Sirisena returned land to 300 rightful owners in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

For the president, “representative of the reconciliation should visit not only the North, but also the South. They should educate the people in the North and the South about the reconciliation process."

Speaking about the difficult conditions of those living in refugee camps, he went on to say, “They are not asking for anybody's things; they are asking for their own property. As a government we have to listen to them."

Since he came to power, Mr Sirisena has favoured pacification in the war-torn country. As part of this, he has allowed Tamils ​​to remember their war victims for the first time.

He has also acknowledged the responsibility of the previous government under President Rajapaksa and granted full cooperation to the international organisations investigating crimes committed by both sides.

As part of yesterday’s ceremony, the president returned the compound where it was held, a school, to its principal. Thus, it can go back to its original function, i.e. educating children.

After 25 years of military occupation, children will go back to class to study in their own village school rather than in temporary shelters.

Lastly, the government delegation visited a model house, which is part of a plan to build 65,000 houses for displaced people in Thelippalei.

Insisting on the importance of the project, the president said that it is “very important to consider the interest of the people who are going to live in them”.

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