Defence Ministry Secretary concludes Jaffna visit
[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 July 2002, 10:30 GMT]
Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry Secretary Mr. Austin Fernando accompanied by the Sri Lanka Army commander, Lt.Gen. Lionel Balagalle and Sri Lanka Navy commander, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri concluded his two-day visit to Jaffna district Sunday.
The aim of his visit was to look into the possibility of resettling thousands of displaced families in Valikamam north and Thenmaradchi sectors, sources said.
He undertook this tour on representations made by the Tamil National Alliance to the Prime Minister that the displaced Tamil families should be allowed to resettle in their own villages in Valikamam north and Thenmaradchi as they now undergo untold hardships due to no fixed abode and income.
Most of the displaced are farmers and their agricultural lands have been within the high security zones, TNA complained.
SLA officials in Jaffna have, however, said that resettlement in Valikamam north area would not be allowed at this stage due security reasons. The opening of Union College and Mahajana College at Tellipallai, which are also in the high security zone, could not be now, they said.
Mr. Austin Fernando, Sunday toured the Thenmaradchi division, and participated at a conference held at Chavakachcheri Hindu College.
Representatives of the displaced families told Mr. Austin Fernando that they should be allowed to resettle in their own villages and remove the military camps, enabling them to restart their cultivation in their agricultural lands, which fall within the high security zone.
The Defence Ministry Secretary told representatives of the displaced from Valikamam north and Thenmaradchi that he would submit a report to Prime Minister on his return to Colombo. A final decision will be taken at a conference, which is scheduled for July 30 between the Prime Minister and a delegation of the Tamil National Alliance, he added.
A group of TNA parliamentarians also participated at the discussions held Saturday and Sunday, sources said.