2ND LEAD (Correction)

Aussie minister visits Mannar, assesses ground situation

[TamilNet, Thursday, 16 March 2006, 18:35 GMT]
Australian Minister of Emigration and Multi-Culture, Ms.Amanda Vanstone, accompanied by Dr. Greg French, Australian envoy in Colombo, Thursday visited Mannar and held discussions with top officials of civil authority and military regarding the ground situation. She arrived in Sri Lanka Navy base in Talaimannar by a special helicopter of the Sri Lanka Air Force Thursday morning around 9 a.m. where Mr.A.Neekilaspillai, Additional Government and Mr. Stanley de Mel, Mannar Divisional Secretary, received her, sources said.

Ms.Amanda Venstonse
The Australian team inspected the de-mining work of the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) group in Talaimannar Pier area where the government troops laid mines after 1990. Ms Amanda Vanstonse personally neutralized a mine recovered in the area during her inspection, sources said.

Thereafter the Australian Minister was taken to the Sri Lanka Army main base in Thallady where Mr.V.Visuvalingam, Government Agent of Mannar, received her. She later visited Santhipuram, Emil Nagar and Tharavankoddai in the Mannar divisional secretariat division where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a project of resettling Indian returnees with the financial assistance of the Australian government, sources said.

She later held discussion with Rev.Fr.Xavier Cross, Vicar General and Rev.Fr.Emilinauspillai, Mannar Parish Priest in the Bishop's House as Bishop Rayappu Jospeh was out of the district. Catholic priests briefed the Aussie minister that no sustainable development could take place in the northeast till the permanent peace is achieved. They appealed to the Australian government to participate more forcefully in bringing peace to the country solving the ethnic crisis, sources said.

Priests brought to the notice of the visiting minister that since the signing of the ceasefire agreement about five hundred families have left their villages in Mannar district and sought refuge in South India and elsewhere because of the unstable political climate, sources said.

At the conclusion she attended a conference held in the Mannar district secretariat. Representatives of FSD, UNDP and IOM and heads of local departments participated. The Government of Australia has been funding the projects of IOM, UNDP and FSD in the Mannar district. The Government of Australia has allocated about two hundred million rupees for these projects. She handed over a tractor to the Farmer's Society in Mullikulam, land master tractors to Thambanaikum and boats and fishing nets to fisher families to the value of 3.5 million rupees, sources said.


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