Book aid to rebuild Jaffna library
By Neville de Silva in London
The prestigious Jaffna library that was largely destroyed 20 years ago will be ready for opening when it is rebuilt by the end of this year.

Dr Jayalath Jayawardena, Minister for Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Refugees said here that the reconstruction of the building itself was nearing completion.

He said that several foreign sources including Tamil Nadu, China and Sri Lankan expatriates had so far promised to provide books to the library.

The Jaffna library, considered one of the best in the East for Tamil studies, was set on fire during the Jaffna District Council elections some 20 years ago and some of its best collections were totally destroyed.

This wanton act of arson was roundly condemned by academics and others aware of the value of this library which contained some rare volumes.

Dr Jayawardena was in London to receive an honorary professorship of the Irish International University awarded this year for his "dedication to peace and his personal involvement in human rights and political management".

Speaking to The Sunday Times before accepting the award at a ceremony at Imperial College, London, the minister said he was happy over the news coming out of the peace talks in Thailand between the government and the LTTE.

"I am very happy that the LTTE has indicated it will abandon its demand for a separate state", the minister said.

"I am particularly happy because I have gone to these war affected areas and have been working there over the past seven years".

"I was not a minister then and I did not receive any help from the then government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.In fact I was abused for trying to help these people".

The Rehabilitation minister was certain that the LTTE is now committed to peace and Anton Balasingham's comment that they were dropping the demand for Eelam was a clear sign of this.

"I think they are committed to peace now and I'm very happy about it".

He said that as the minister in charge of rehabilitation and resettlement, he had an enormous task before him.

He had set a target to settle 200,000 families displaced by war, in the next two years.

This is only one part of a major problem, he said. Over 200,000 homes have been destroyed in the North and East, many public buildings and schools have been destroyed, some one million people are internally displaced and 66,000 persons are in refugee camps in India.

Then there are the 30,000 or so women who have been widowed.

Over 200,000 have sought asylum abroad.

Dr Jayawardena believes his immediate humanitarian task is quick impact projects -that is providing mobile medical clinics, dry rations, de-mining and rebuilding roads.
The rehabilitation of the North and East will cost something like US$ 500 million according to his estimate.

He admitted there were still problems to be sorted out and complaints from Tamils themselves at having to pay taxes and duties to the LTTE.

But, he says, people and goods are moving in both directions and slowly confidence is being built.

"I don't say peace has come. There are shortcomings and delays. I don't want to hide that. But we have to accept these difficulties and work to eliminate them".

"The people gave us a mandate to bring about peace. On that we are moving with the people. We will not hide anything from the people". He said no time frame can be set to achieve a durable peace because it is not an easy goal to reach.

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