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Lanka has miles to go in refugee rehab

[Express Buzz, Friday, 4 June 2010 08:31 No Comment]

On May 28, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had ordered that all Tamil war refugees living in government-run camps should be sent back to their villages in three months.

Local officials and Tamil political leaders have welcomed the President’s announcement, but they point out that resettlement is much more than just sending refugees back to their villages.

“Resettlement means giving them the wherewithal to live and make a living. It is in this area that the government is woefully deficient,” said S Yogeswaran, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for Batticaloa district.

Quoting the Batticaloa District Resettlement Officer M Thayaparan, the Tamil daily Virakesari said that out of the 37,068 refugee families which had been “resettled” in this eastern Lankan district, only 7,206 had received the measly resettlement allowance of SLRs 25,000 (USD 220).

Out of the 13,777 houses which were fully damaged in the war, only 5,017 had been repaired in the last three years.

“Refugees, who were sent back to their villages in the formerly LTTE-controlled area of Paduvankarai, are facing a severe drinking water shortage. The wells had gone dry. There are no hospitals. Transport is yet to be restored, and this has severely hit the principal industry in the area, which is dairy farming,”  Yogeswaran told Express on Thursday.

The government is committed to paying a solatium to the families of the 346 civilians dead and 394 wounded in the war. “But it has been tardy in issuing certificates to the wounded and the families of the dead,” the MP pointed out.

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