Friday, December 04, 2009

India for revival of political process in Sri Lanka

India Friday said it wanted a revival of the peace process in Sri Lanka and has been assured by Colombo that all people displaced by the two-decade-long civil war would be resettled by the end of January 2010.

“Government is keen to see the revival of political process in Sri Lanka which will meet the legitimate interests and aspirations of all communities, including Tamils and Muslims, within the framework of a united Sri Lanka,” Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna said in the Rajya Sabha.

“Revival of such political process and an inclusive dialogue would help bring the minority communities (come) into the political mainstream,” he added.

In making the suo moto statement, the government avoided the calling attention motion which some MPs from the southern states had submitted.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Venkaiah Naidu had objected to this move just before Krishna got up to read the four-page statement.

Krishna also said India had continued to emphasise to the Sri Lankan government “to put forward a meaningful devolution package that could go beyond 13th amendment. We will remain engaged with them through this process of transition and reform”.

Out of the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps, more than half have been resettled, while about 145,000 still remain in the camps. The travel restrictions on those living in the camps have also been relaxed, Krishna said.

“We have been assured that by end-January 2010, all IDPs would be resettled. We continue to work with the Sri Lankan government to ensure the resettlement of all,” he said.

India has set aside Rs.500 crore for the rehabilitation of the IDPs and welfare of people in northern Sri Lanka.

Four de-mining teams are currently in the island nation, with another three to be sent after suggestion made by the Indian parliamentary delegation.

The Indian delegation had visited Jaffna, plantation areas in central Sri Lanka and IDP camps in October this year. They had also met several Sri Lankan Tamil leaders and called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Indian humanitarian effort included supply of 2.5 lakh family packs, which include dry rations, clothing, utensils, footwear, as well as setting up a 60-member emergency field hospital for six months.

India has donated 2,600 tonnes of shelter material, with another consignment of similar amount to be sent soon. India also plans to supply cement, as well as undertake a project to rehabilitate war widows, Krishna said.

With the aim of reviving agriculture in north Sri Lanka, a team of Indian Council of Agricultural Research visited the region to draw up a blueprint. While 20,000 agricultural starter packs have been supplied, another 50,000 are already “in the pipeline”, the minister said.

The external affairs minister also spoke of the impact of an agreement reached with Sri Lankan government on Indian fishermen straying into Sri Lankan waters.

In 2008, 1,456 Indian fishermen and 334 boats were apprehended by Sri Lanka, while by 2009 November only 124 fishermen and 31 boats have been taken into custody.

“We have continued to emphasise to the Sri Lankan government the need to scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 understanding. However, it is important that our fishermen do not venture deep into Sri Lankan waters for their own safety and security,” said Krishna.

The two-decade-long insurgency by the Tamil Tigers for a separate homeland in the north of the country ended in May after the Sri Lankan army killed the group’s leader V. Prabhakaran and wiped out the entire rebel top leadership.


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