IDPs: India pressurizes Govt.

Narayanan sends strong letter; High Commissioner holds talks with President
By Our Diplomatic Editor

Serious concerns expressed by the Government of India over the continued holding of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in camps prompted the Government to carry out a review of the ongoing process.

New Delhi’s concerns, the Sunday Times learns, were conveyed through two different channels to the Government.

India’s High Commissioner Alok Prasad met President Mahinda Rajapaksa early this week. He was to convey a request from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that immediate measures be taken to expedite the resettlement of IDPs in their original homesteads. Indian media this week quoted Premier Singh as saying he had told Sri Lanka “in no uncertain terms” that the IDP issue should be resolved without delay.

The other was a letter by India’s National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan to Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President. He has also underscored Indias concerns. According to a diplomatic source, Mr. Narayanan has also expressed fears that continued presence of IDPs in camps could endanger the stability of the region.

Matters arising out of the representations, the Sunday Times learnt, were discussed at last Wednesday’s weekly meeting of the National Security Council. However, details of what was discussed or decisions taken are not known. Taking part at this meeting, besides the regular participants, was Basil Rajapaksa, MP and Senior Advisor to the President. Army’s area commanders in the North, Wanni and the East were also special participants.

On Friday President Rajapaksa re-iterated his commitment to India when he told visiting UN Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe, that by end of January, the majority of IDPs would have been resettled. He had assured India that the Government planned to complete the re-settlement process within six months.

A new scheme where IDPs, who are security cleared will be given “Day Passes” to engage in employment is also to be announced by the Government. The Government has already announced that some IDPs will be shifted to camps in the North and East in a bid to alleviate difficulties they face now. The move is also intended to ensure the IDPs overcome difficulties caused by the impending northeast monsoon.

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