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Work on housing project from July: Rajapaksa

[Hindu, Tuesday, 29 March 2011 21:25 No Comment]

Work on the India-supported pilot housing project for displaced Tamil people of the Northern Province would commence in July in Kilinochi, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said here on Monday.

At an interaction over breakfast with foreign correspondents stationed here, he said the first set of 1,000 houses would be built in Kilinochi. Last November, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna laid the corner-stone for the pilot project just outside Jaffna.

In all, the Government of India had planned to support 50,000 dwelling units for the Tamil people, who were being re-settled in the Northern Province. A majority of these are new constructions.

“We have given land,” Mr. Rajapaksa said, adding that for the remaining 49,000 houses, Cabinet clearance had to be obtained as it was a large project. This would be done “in about a week or so.”

On the many hurdles in the path of the Indian coal-based power plant in Sampur, he said the project was approved at the “political level.” “What is now happening are all technical details.”

On the question of sovereign guarantee and the Sri Lankan government’s reluctance to grant it, he said a guarantee was given but the Sri Lankan law dictated that an amendment was required if a sovereign guarantee had to be accorded. The Attorney General’s office was looking into the issue but was of the opinion that the law would be violated if a sovereign guarantee was given. “I think in about 10 days, all issues on the plant will be sorted out,” Mr. Rajapaksa said.

Asked about the fate of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) — the comprehensive trade agreement that India and Sri Lanka had come close to signing but had to be thrown into the back burner because of sudden Sri Lankan resistance — he said there was opposition to the signing of the CEPA with India from the local business community.

Asked about his stand on Indian fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and fishing in the Sri Lankan waters, he said the concern of the northern fishermen was that they earlier caught 43 per cent of the fish. Now this had shrunk to 7 per cent. There was no problem with minor transgressions but thousands of Indian boats crossing the IMBL regularly to the Sri Lankan side could not be accepted.

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