UN boss asks for “unimpeded access” to IDP camps
By Chandani Kirinde

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday sought unimpeded access to welfare camps and freedom of movement for UN agencies and INGOs.

He made this appeal when he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Kandy. He said he told the President there were overpowering needs of the internally displaced people, particularly of children, pregnant women and the elderly, and they needed to be met immediately.

“I commend the work being done by the government in IDP camps but it lacks resources. There is a wide gap between what is needed and what is available,” he said.

Addressing a brief news conference after his meeting with the President, the UN chief said he urged the government to immediately initiate a political process, warning that history could repeat itself if it failed to address the problems faced by minority communities in the country.

“It is time to heal for all Sri Lankans to unite and bring about lasting peace,” the Secretary General said.
He said the government should engage in confidence-building measures immediately, ensuring full transparency in the legal process as well in dealing with human rights issues.

He also urged the government to resettle the displaced people in their homes as soon as possible and said he was encouraged by the assurances from the government that 80 per cent of the people would be resettled in their homes by the end of the year.

The secretary general assured UN assistance in the de-mining process and called for international partnership.

Mr. Ban earlier in the day visited the IDP camps in Vavuniya and also flew past the former No-Fire Zone. He described the visit as a sobering experience and said he was sad about the people who were killed and injured.

Mr. Ban said some IDPs gave him letters, saying they did not have adequate food, they were unable to leave the camps for emergency medical treatment and were separated from families. He urged that the process of screening of IDPs be expedited and separated families be united as soon as possible.

Mr. Ban who was scheduled to leave the country last night said a joint statement would be issued at the end of his visit.

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