TNA's meeting with Rajapaksa fails to resolve IDP crisis
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 September 2009, 12:24 GMT]
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians who held talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers Monday evening at Temple Trees on the issue of resettling Vanni IDPs in their own places, said that the talks ended in failure as Mr. Rajapaksa evaded the main issue by saying resettlement of Vanni IDPs is not immediately possible as demining in Vanni has to be completed before resettlement. The urgent request to resettle the Vanni IDPs in Vavuniyaa internment camps before the monsoon rains was not given any due consideration by Rajapaksa and his ministers, TNA parliamentarians said.
R. Smapantharn, Mavai Senathirajah, Suresh Premachandran, Raseen Mohamed Imam, Sri Kantha, K. Thangkeswari and Sivasakthi Ananthan were the TNA parliamentarians who took part in the talks with the Sri Lankan President Monday from 4:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m.
Rajapaksa was accompanied by his brother and senior advisor, Basil Rajapaksa, his secretary, Lalith Weeratunge, Vavuniyaa SLA Commander, ministers Rizard Badudeen and Susil Premajayantha and Northern Province Governor, former SLA Jaffna Commander, G. A. Chandrasiri.
On being asked as to Rajapaksa's public assurance that the Vanni IDPs will be resettled within 180 days he responded by claiming that his government had completed resettlement of IDPs in the East and that the 'same wonder' may perhaps happen in Vanni too.
The Sri Lankan president dismissed immediate resettlement, saying that his government lacked necessary funds to engage the 600 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers who were trained in de-mining and ready to do the job as funds for de-mining were not available from the international countries. He was telling the TNA to move matters with the EU in getting the necessary funds for de-mining from the member countries of the EU. There was no mention of engaging independent actors such as NGOs or foreign agencies in de-mining, a TNA parliamentarian who attended the meeting said.
"Mr. Rajapaksa further claimed that around 19,000 IDPs had been already released from the Vavuniyaa camps but we pointed out that this number is only 8% percent while 92% of the IDPs suffer being detained in the internment camps."
The President said that action is underway to release IDPs from Vavuniyaa, Mannaar and Jaffna after confirming that neither they nor their relatives or friends who are ready to take care of them are linked to terrorists. We told the President that this cumbersome process would indefinitely delay the release of the IDPs.
We also asked the President to consider our requests in the issue of resettling IDPs evacuated by the SLA from the High Security Zones (HSZs) in Jaffna peninsula besides the lifting of restriction on fishing and travel but the President and his ministers effectively brushed aside the requests repeatedly stressing on the need for demining, the TNA parliamentarians said.
Though we had some hopes of our requests being heeded the President, employing evasive and sidetracking techniques, did not consider the requests favourably, the TNA parliamentarians said.