The government last week had instructed the District Secretariats in the North to speed up resettlement processes and make sure that all Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and welfare centres are closed down before next month.
According to reports, the Presidential Secretariat had given the instruction to the District Secretariat offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya in light of the visit of United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Bank Ki-moon during the first week of September.
The directive was given by President Maithripala Sirisena and is followed up by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs in collaboration with Ministry of Defence and District Secretaries.
Over seven years have passed by since the end of the war and the issue of IDPs continues to be an issue that needs to be addressed.
According to the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, there are 31 welfare centres in Jaffna District with 936 families and one in Poonthoddam, Vavuniya with 97 families.
The government’s hastiness to resettle the said IDPs is welcome. These people have languished in temporary shelters for long enough, and it is high time that they go back to their own places where they could recommence their lives afresh.
However, the government’s job does not end by sending them back to their places. The resettlement process is complete only if the ground work is properly laid for the people to start their lives from where they left.
The Ministry stated that houses are being built for those who are to be resettled. Accordingly, 66 houses are being constructed in Sinnadamban, Vavuniya North and 31 houses are being constructed in Puliyankulam, Vavuniya North for IDPs in Poonthoddam. “These houses are scheduled to be completed by September and October 2016 respectively,” the Ministry said.
These houses are being constructed by Gnanam Foundation – a voluntary organization under a MOU signed between Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs and Gnanam Foundation.
Meanwhile, Cabinet approval has been granted for the construction of permanent houses for the 936 IDP families in welfare camps Jaffna. “Accordingly, in Kankesanthurai, Keerimalai area 100 houses are being constructed with the support of the Sri Lanka Army on a fast track basis and scheduled to be completed in September 2016. Further, 104 housing units are under construction in Palali North under owner-driven concept and scheduled to be completed in October 2016,” the Ministry added.
In addition, the government has also identified 250 plots of lands in the area adjacent to the cement factory for the resettlement 250 families in the camps who do not have lands.
“A further 452 families in the welfare camps need to be resettled to fully address the IDPs in the Welfare Camps,” Ministry Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy had said.
All these measures that are taken for the welfare of the war affected would indeed place Sri Lanka in a better position in terms of its reconciliation process.
Sri Lanka has not been in the good books of the international community, including the likes of the UN and the European Union (EU) owing to how it handled the war and then on its handling of accountability issues.
But today, the international community has expressed its satisfaction over the measures taken by the current government to address the various concerns expressed by them.
The Cabinet of Ministers recently granted approval for the National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict Affected Displaced Families.
In addition, the government had also passed a Bill for the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP). Such moves would definitely increase the confidence of not only the international community, but also those affected by the war. But, all these should not be done for the sake of getting back into the good books of the international community. It should be done for the people. It is the duty of the government to satisfy the people and not the international bodies.
Someone should keep a tab on the progress of the government. But the focus of the government should be to keep the people happy.