By Jamila Najmuddin
Despite government assurances to the UN that all IDPs will be resettled by January 31, Minister of Resettlement and disaster relief services Rishard Bathiudeen said that 80,000 IDPs still remain in camps in Vavuniya as of today.
Speaking to Daily Mirror online, the Minister said that the government had not given an assurance to any organization of a deadline date and said the government was trying its best to resettle the displaced ‘as soon as possible’.
“We are a democratic country and we are not answerable to the UN or any organization. However we did tell the UN that we would resettle the IDPs as soon as possible which is what we are doing,” Minister Bathiudeen said.
He added that President Mahinda Rajapkse was being updated about the resettlement procedure and currently de-mining agencies were working in clearing lands to accommodate the displaced. “Thousands of IDPs have been resettled to date and things are moving swiftly. Tomorrow an additional 1000 IDPs will be resettled. Although a time frame cannot be given, things are moving fast,” the Minister said.
Minister Bathiudeen’s comments are contrary to an assurance made by a Sri Lankan delegation which visited India last month, stating that all IDPs of Tamil origin would be resettled by the end of January this year.
A three member delegation consisted of Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse, President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse.
President Mahinda Rajapakse too had assured a visiting UN envoy in September that arrangements would be made to complete the resettlement of displaced civilians by the end of January.
Meanwhile several displaced children staged a protest today with their parents demanding that they be given access to schools.
Speaking to Daily Mirror online in Vavuniya some of the parents said that although the education authorities had assured that their children will be given access to schools in Vavuniya today, no such facilities were in place.
The education authorities however said that the facilities would be set up by the end of this week which would result in a delay for the children to get back to school.