Wickremesinghe said to agree in principle to IDPs' resettlement in HSZ

[TamilNet, Thursday, 16 October 2003, 16:51 GMT]
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe, in a meeting with a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Thursday, accepted 'in principle' that all internally displaced families are entitled to resettlement in their own lands and houses in the northeast province, regardless of whether those lands or houses come under areas declared as high security zones (HSZ) by the Sri Lanka Army, TNA sources said.

Mr. Wickremasinghe met with the TNA delegation at his official residence in Colombo, Temple Tress, Thursday evening.

The Prime Minister further assured the TNA delegation that he would continue his dialogue with the TNA leaders and make a decision in regard to the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) after consultation with his senior ministers and top security officials, TNA sources said.

The TNA delegation, led by its parliamentary group leader Mr.R.Sampanthan, comprised parliamentarians Messrs Joseph Pararajasingham, Mavai Senathirajah, A.Vinayagamoorthy, Selvam Adaikalanathan, G.G.Gajendrakumar, Sivasakthi Anandan, K.Thurairetnasingham and EPRLF Secretary General Mr.Suresh Premachchandran.

Associated with the Prime Minister at the meeting were the Prime Minister's special advisor, Mr.Bradman Weerakoon, Defense Secretary Mr. Austin Fernando, University Grants Commission Chairman Professor Mendis, UGC Secretary Mr.Nandasiri and Higher Education Ministry officials.

The discussions commenced at about 4 p.m. and concluded by 5.30 p.m., TNA sources said

The discussion centered on several issues but the top priority was given to the resettlement of IDPs in the northeast, the sources said.

Opening the discussion on the demand that all IDPs should be allowed to resettle in their houses and lands whether they come under HSZ or not, Mr.Sampanthan told the Prime Minister that IDPs are languishing in refugee camps and welfare centres since the signing of the ceasefire agreement twenty months ago.

“IDPs in the Northeast have been deprived of their due benefits under the peace process that are being enjoyed by people in other parts of the island,” TNA sources quoted Mr. Sampanthan as telling the Prime Minister.

The TNA warned that given the disappointment and despair the IDPs are feeling, they (the IDPs) have lost confidence in the peace process and might rebel against authorities one day, causing irreparable harm to the peace process.

“Every citizen has the right to live in his or her own land and house. No one has the power to deny this right,” Mr.Sampanthan stressed.

He argued that the phrase "high security zone" should be removed from usage as it has no meaning. “No one would object if the security establishment strengthened the Kankesanthurai harbor and the Palaly military base,” he said. “But keeping one third of the landmass in the Jaffna peninsula in the name of high security zone by the security forces cannot be accepted by any one.”

The TNA delegation told Mr. Wickremasinghe that time was running out and the government should make a decision regarding the demand of resettling Tamil families in their own lands and houses before the displaced lose their patience and launch an agitation campaign against the authorities, the sources said.


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