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IDPs: Govt. already acting on agreed areas of priority - President to Ban Ki-moon

IDPs: Govt. already acting on agreed areas of priority - President to Ban Ki-moon

The Government is already giving the highest priority to the issues raised by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with regard to the massive influx of Internally Displaced Persons held hostage by the LTTE, and matters that have arisen following the defeat of LTTE terrorism, said President Mahinda Rajapaksa at their meeting at President's House, in Kandy today (May 23).

The Secretary General, who met the President after a visit to IDP relief villages in Vavuniya earlier today, said progress must come in three critical areas such as immediate humanitarian relief, followed by reintegration and reconstruction, leading to a sustainable and equitable political solution in Sri Lanka.

Responding to the Secretary General's observation that progress on all these areas must proceed in parallel, with the least delay, President Rajapaksa said these areas had already been recognized as those needing the highest priority, and that work was already in place to address them. He said there were still some aspects of security of the IDPs that had to be assured in view of the likely presence of LTTE infiltrators among the large numbers who had come to the Government areas. All action was being taken to ensure the safety of the IDPs, and to expedite their resettlement and reintegration into society.

President Rajapaksa said the Government was already working on a plan to resettle most of the IDPs within 180 days. He told the UNSG that all resettlement will be done under internationally accepted norms. This would require ensuring the safety of the IDPs, as well as their rehabilitation, and providing them with new skills for successful livelihood.

President Rajapaksa also said the Government was committed to a political solution, and for this purpose action would be taken based on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

The UN Secretary General who appreciated the conditions the relief village at Chettikulam that he visited earlier today, said there was room for improvement, which would require the wider assistance of the International Community. He understood the immense pressures brought on the Government as a result of the sudden arrival of such large numbers of people seeking relief, who had been held hostage for a long period.

The UN Secretary General requested the Government to allow greater access to international relief agencies that will be able to help with their experience and expertise. President Rajapaksa said that as conditions improved, especially with regard to security, there would be no objections to such assistance, from organizations that were genuinely interested in the well being of the IDPs and the needs of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon assured President Rajapaksa that the UN would extend all assistance to Sri Lanka in facing up to this new challenge following the ending of hostilities in the country.


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