Secretary Nirupama Rao on a hurricane visit to Sri Lanka’s North
India’s Ministry of External Affairs' Secretary Nirupama Rao who arrived in Colombo yesterday, visited Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Jaffna and interacted with a section Internally Displaced Persons, officials and civil society leaders to get acquainted with the on the spot situation of the Tamils in the North.
Secretary Nirupama Rao began her visit to Sri Lanka on 31st August was accompanied during the visit by the High Commissioner of India Ashok K. Kantha, Governor of the Northern Province, Maj Gen (Rtd) G.A.Chandrasiri and senior officials of the Governments of India and Sri Lanka.
In Vavuniya, Foreign Secretary received a briefing on the resettlement situation from Maj Gen Kamal Gunaratne, the Security Forces Commander of the Wanni.
She then visited Menik Farm, where she met with a number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their families who still await resettlement. She also visited their homes and witnessed their conditions of stay. In a public meeting at the Urban Council Hall in Vavuniya, Foreign Secretary met with another group of IDPs.
Secretary Nirupama Rao assured the IDPs of the Government of India’s continued commitment to assist them in the task of rebuilding their lives. India’s announcement to build 50,000 houses was widely welcomed. Foreign Secretary underlined that these houses will be built with local participation and will give a fillip to local employment. Foreign Secretary also met with the Government Agent (GA) of Vavuniya, Mrs. PSM Charles and discussed other possible areas where India could assist in the process of resettlement.
Demining in Omanthai
Nirupama Rao next visited Mahilankulam near Omanthai, a site where the Horizon (ex-servicemen) Group of India is conducting demining operations in a heavily mined area that constituted the no-man’s land between the former Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) of the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE.
The Government of India is funding three Horizon demining teams, in addition to four teams from Sarvatra, another Indian demining group working in Sri Lanka.
The work of the demining teams has come in for considerable praise. Before leaving Vavuniya, Smt Nirupama Rao also distributed another consignment of Indian assistance consisting of agricultural toolkits, roofing sheets and cement bags among recently resettled IDPs, at the Agrarian Services Centre in Omanthai.
Secretary Nirupama Rao visited Kilinochchi, where she met with local army and civil officials who briefed her on the progress of resettlement. They expressed their happiness that Government of India was readily coming forward to assist in the process of resettlement. She also met with recently resettled families in the Kilinochchi area and distributed toolkits, cement bags and roofing sheets to them.
Nirupama Rao met with local officials who briefed her on the situation in the Jaffna Peninsula and the resettlement priorities of the district. She was accorded a warm public reception at the Jaffna Public Library where the Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development, Mr. Douglas Devananda and the Mayor of Jaffna were also present.
At the Library, she also met with a broad spectrum of civil society leaders and heard from them about the recent developments following the end of armed conflict. They underscored the need for India to be involved in the political process to ensure a permanent settlement.
During her interaction in Jaffna, Secretary Nirupama Rao underlined that India stood with Sri Lanka in responding to the challenges posed by the task of resettlement and rehabilitation of the large number of IDPs resulting from the end of armed conflict in 2009.
In particular, she referred to the challenge posed by housing and noted that India had pledged to build 50,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and that Jaffna would be assisted through signature projects such as the Jaffna Cultural Center, Jaffna Teaching Hospital and the Duraiappah Stadium. She emphasized that it was time to look to the future for the sake of the coming generations and underlined that India had always accorded high priority to the welfare of the people of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.
Foreign Secretary also visited the site of the Cultural Centre that will be constructed with Indian assistance. She also distributed Indian assistance to a group of recently resettled IDPs.
On 1st September, Foreign Secretary will continue her visit to Sri Lanka by visiting Mullaitivu and Trincomalee, before returning to Colombo for further meetings with Sri Lankan dignitaries. She will also call on the President of Sri Lanka before her departure to India.
- Asian Tribune -