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Thursday, 14 December 2017
Thursday, 14 December 2017 | Sri Lanka Watch
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“We have not just resettled the people for the sake of resettling them” – Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri PDF Print E-mail
In an exclusive interview with Sri Lanka Watch, Governor of Northern Province, Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri - a leading governmental resettlement coordinating official, shared his take on the current return process, plight of IDPs and post-resettlement issues.
 

More than 135,000 have returned already, he said adding that several tens of thousands were resettled within last several weeks and thousands are being resettled on daily basis. He also stated that government of Sri Lanka is taking active measures to address post-resettlement issues.

SLW: What lead to the current situation with internally displaced people (IDP)?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: When the Northern operations ended last May, we ended up with approximately two hundred and eighty thousand people. We had three basic concerns on this development. These were security concerns, de-mining concerns and livelihood concerns.  We had to screen out potential security threats for the people. Then we had to make sure that the area is de-mined before resettlement. There were also livelihood concerns with agriculture and other local industries being ravaged due to war. However, we clearly understood the other humanitarian aspects and that’s why we took immediate steps to release university students, elderly people, pregnant mothers, orphaned children and handicapped individuals from the camps to their relatives. This was the first batch of people who were released under the master-resettling plan.

  

construction of A32 road                De-mining in the north

SLW: How are health and educational facilities inside the camps?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: There were many early fears of the possibilities of epidemics being spread inside these camps while many others predicted a health disaster. However, there were no such epidemics and health issues reported inside camps. We have medical centers and over hundred and fifty doctors from all parts of world working actively within the camps. I must appreciate the roles played also by French and Indian hospitals inside the camp areas. We took all precautions and prevented major outbreaks. As for the education, we have educational institutes operating inside the camps and students were also able to sit for the grade five scholarship exam, Ordinary Level and Advance Level exams.

 
 Mannar causeway                        Mannar bridge

SLW: How many people have been released and resettled so far?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: According to my notes, one hundred thirty five thousand people have been released and resettled so far. I believe that several tens of thousands had been released during the last several weeks. The resettlement in Jaffna peninsular is now fully completed while resettlement in other districts is in progress. We have also resettled people in East who were originally inhabitants of East. This includes Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amparai areas.

SLW: Can you give a time frame to complete the resettlement?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: I am confident by the end of January, we can achieve our resettlement goals by hundred percent. The things are moving very fast and active on the ground.
 
SLW: How do you see the role of UN and other NGO’s in the current context?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: United Nations agencies and many other NGO’s are actively participating in the relief efforts under the government’s umbrella.  UNICEF, WFP and UNHRC in particular gave us a lot of support. UN is very supportive of our efforts at the ground level and we look forward to work with them. While we in the government are spearheading the resettlement operations, we also hold daily discussions on the progress with other agencies to get all parties involved to serve the people.

SLW:
What is the progress of de-mining efforts in North?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: De-mining process is in a high gear with number of personnel and equipments being increased. When we started the de-mining efforts, we only had about hundred and fifty mine clearing engineers. We currently have around eight hundred personnel working tirelessly at the ground with another two hundred joining next week. We also have Indian, Danish and other de-mining groups operating giving us extra support. I must also mention that importing mine clearing machines from Slovakia and Croatia had given a boost to our clearing efforts.

SLW: There were reported cases of un-rest inside camps?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: These maybe isolated incidents. Interestingly, people are moving out from the camps in a high gear. It is virtually impossible for unrest to spread or exist when the mobility is of such high pace.

SLW: Has the government taken steps to address the issues in the context of post-resettlement?  

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: Yes. We have not just resettled the people for the sake of resettling them. We had renovated tanks, supplied electricity and provided needed infrastructure for the resettled people to carry on their livelihood. Boats had been also distributed to fisher-folks in coastal areas. We have cleared lands from mines and even cleared some jungle areas for people to do cultivation. As people are being resettled in newly liberated areas, we equipped these areas of schools, medical centers, police station and other needed agencies so the resettlement is more practical. It is also important to note that government gives IDP’s a stipend to support them and motivate them to buy equipments need when they are sent for resettlement. We also give them paddy seeds, subsidized fertilizers, tractors for subsidized rates and other needed assistance in support of resettlement. From my experience, I know people are taking the best out of this situation. There is a lot work being done and we (Governors office, ministers, government agents and district secretariats) are working as a team to achieve this goal.

SLW: What is the latest update with fishing restrictions in Jaffna?
Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri: There are no fishing restrictions at all in Jaffna. People can go fish wherever they need in all areas other than in a small one-kilometer strip that is on the path of Palali airport.  This is why we recently saw that Lorries filled with fish reaching Colombo and Southern markets. We have taken immediate steps to open A9 for transportation of goods from this week and I am confident that it will be a boost to the Northern economy.

©2009 All Photos SLW

 
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