|Relief and Resettlement for citizens escaping from the LTTE|
|Friday, 13 February 2009|
At a Media Briefing to Foreign Journalists on Tuesday February 10 Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe addressed the issue of Tamil civilians who had been trapped by the LTTE in the Vanni, and who were now attempting to escape. Two recent incidents confirmed the determination of the LTTE to prevent these civilians from getting away, even at the cost of their lives.
On Monday February 9th, a woman suicide bomber of LTTE had carried out an explosion at a refugee registration centre killing 10 civilians and 20 soldiers and injuring 64 in total. Among the victims were women and children. On the 10th, the LTTE attacked civilians fleeing its diminishing area with small arms and shelling, killing 19 civilians and injuring 75 others. Among those were killed 6 women and 2 children; the injured included 27 women and 11 children.
Despite this attack, nearly 1000 civilians escaped LTTE captivity and got to safe areas held by the security forces on this occasion.
Minister Samarasinghe told the international media that the LTTE deliberately targeted innocent Tamil civilians to trigger a fear psychosis among those trapped in the small area of the northern Mullaitivu District they yet hold. ‘We are gratified to note that despite the attacks, the flow of civilians into government controlled areas continued.’ he said.
The screening process would have to be strengthened after this suicide attack, since more such savage attacks had to be expected knowing the mindset of the LTTE. Whilst enhancing security for these civilians, government would continue to provide the humanitarian assistance they craved after months of being pushed into smaller and smaller spaces by the LTTE as it retreated.
The Minister reiterated the assurance given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to all citizens of Sri Lanka on Independence Day that they would be looked after, enjoying the same rights as all others in the rest of the country, and calling on the LTTE to lay down arms and allow civilians to come to areas of safety. Minister said that, as of last morning, 32,000 civilians who were trapped in the LTTE areas had crossed over to safe areas of the government. Of these, 24,000 were accommodated in temporary shelters at Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Jaffna and around 8,000 others were being screened by the Military to be handed over to the Government Agents.
Answering questions on how long the resettlement of the Tamil civilians would take place, Secretary to the President, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, said all steps are being taken to resettle them with necessary facilities for a safe and good livelihood. Until final resettlement, they would be accommodated in places similar to traditional villages and not detention centres as some reports had suggested.
His Excellency the President had issued instructions that facilities for civilians should ensure their dignity, and for this purpose, the villages would provide facilities of a higher standard than the minimum that had been adhered to in previous centres. In addition to fundamental needs such as food and health facilities and shelter and sanitation and electricity, the government would also focus on social needs.
Schooling was a priority and also pre-school facilities, whilst provision had been made for vocational training so as to ensure that the displaced would be equipped with new skills for their return. The villages would also have banks and post offices with facilities for communication nationally and internationally. Police posts and community centres would also be established, with facilities for sports and recreation.
Whilst it was envisaged that resettlement in their original places of habitation would commence in a few months, government was conscious that demining would be less easy than in the East. Assistance had been sought for de-miming from international organizations, including those from India, and there had been a favourable response. Demining work had already begun in Mannar. UN certification of safety would be sought as in the East, but meanwhile infrastructural replacement and development had commenced in the areas that had been cleared, so that return would be accompanied by facilities for enhanced economic activity.
Mr. Weeratunga added that it was the intention of the Government to restore Democracy in the North as early as possible, beginning with Local Government elections and moving to Provincial Council Elections.
Minister Samarasinghe thanked the UN and other aid agencies and the ICRC for all the cooperation extended despite certain difficulties, and looked forward to continued cooperation in the larger interests of the affected civilian population.
The press briefing chaired by Hon. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe also consisted of the Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services - Hon. Risath Bathiyutheen, Secretary to H.E. the President – Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary Foreign Affairs, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Secretary to Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights – Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, Director General for the Media Centre for National Security – Mr. Lakshman Hulugalle, Director International Media and Policy Research of the Presidential Secretariat – Mr. Lucien Rajakarunanayake and Consultant to the North and East of the Ministry of Health and Nutrition - Dr. V. Jeganathan.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|