09/26/2012, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka has no more refugees, says Rajapaksa

by Melani Manel Perera
During a visit to the Northern Province, the president announced that IDP resettlement was completed. Defence Ministry noted that 1,186 persons from 361 families were resettled as of 24 September. The government promises a 'development plan' and praises "unprecedented growth" in the local economy.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The resettlement of the last civil war refugees "has been completed," said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during a visit yesterday to Mullaitivu District (Northern Province).

In his meeting with the Tamil community of Vellamullivaikkal (Pudukkudiruppu), the President said, "the government is committed in providing assistance in order to develop the north on par with that of other parts of the country. Special assistance programs have been facilitated to uplift the living standards of the farming and fishing communities".

According to Defence Ministry data, 1,186 persons from 361 families were thus resettled on 24 September.

"Sri Lanka is possibly the only country in the world to have successfully resettled more than 295,000 IDPs within a short period of three years from the time they were rescued by the armed forces in a humanitarian rescue operation in May 2009," Defence Ministry sources said.

For almost 30 years (1983-2009), the island was the scene of a bloody civil war between the government and rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought to establish an independent state in the predominantly Tamil Northern and Easter provinces

The conflict became ethnic in nature and ended only with rebel defeat after huge losses and more than 200,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), some first and second generations, were forced to live in utter squalor in refugee camps.

"Even though the resettlement is complete the military would continue to assist the resettled people to build their houses and commence their livelihoods," Defence Ministry sources said. "The government has spent US$ 360 million to resettle the 98 per cent of the 290,000 IDPs housed in welfare centres."

Government sources have listed a series of initiatives associated with refugee resettlement. "The development of the road network enabled the free movement of man and machinery. [. . .] The north is now connected to the national grid. There will be uninterrupted electricity supply to the peninsula after 25 years. The Jaffna Peninsula is to be linked by way of 33KW transmission line from the Kilinochchi substation and construction of another 132KW transmission line from the Killinochchi substation to Chunnakam in Jaffna is in progress under the second stage of the project."

Final thumbs up go to "The government's ambitious development drive," which "has finally been bearing fruit. "

The Northern Province recorded an "unprecedented economic growth" during the last year, with tourism leading the way thanks to thousands of local and foreign tourists visiting the north.

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