Post-war, India helps Sri Lanka rebuild Tamil areas

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS,

New Delhi : From vocational training to mine clearing, India is providing sweeping help to Sri Lanka to rebuild vast areas after the end of a quarter-century-long Tamil separatist campaign.

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The process is expected to continue in the months to come.

Already 2,600 tonnes of shelter material have gone to Sri Lanka, mainly to ensure that those displaced by fighting that ended in May 2009 get a roof over the head. It can also be used to refurbish damaged houses elsewhere in Sri Lanka’s northeast where the military crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, killing its entire leadership.

Another equivalent amount of 2,600 tonnes of shelter material are to be sent soon.

After the visit by a delegation of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) to Sri Lanka, the Railways hope to help Colombo lay at least two rail lines in the country’s north.

One will connect Talaimannar and the famed Madhu Church in Mannar district. Another will link Palai and Omanthai, which for long served as the de facto border between government and Tamil Tiger territory.

“There could be other and bigger projects too,” a railway official told IANS only on condition of anonymity.

A vocational training centre has come up at Puttalam, where thousands of Muslims settled after being driven out of Jaffna en masse by the LTTE in 1990.

More vocational training centers are proposed in the region to provide young men and women skills that can fetch a decent income.

India has also provided or proposes to give buses, 20,000 packs of badly needed farm equipment as well as books for schools in the north besides aid to refurbish a college and a cultural centre in Jaffna.

Jaffna’s Alfred Duriappah Stadium will be converted into an international sports stadium with Indian help.

India is going to send more de-mining teams to help Sri Lanka remove thousands of landmines buried in Sri Lanka’s north and east since the war erupted in 1983.

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most heavily mined areas. There are no precise estimates regarding the number of mines the military and the LTTE buried. The mines have killed and maimed thousands.

India is unhappy over the slow progress of the rehabilitation of the nearly 280,000 Tamil men, women and children kept in camps since the end of the war against the LTTE.

Colombo has confined them in high-security camps saying it needed to check if they included suspected LTTE members.

But as of now, registration of their names – the first step in the long path to rehabilitation – has not been completed in more than 50 percent of all cases.

Under flak over the slow progress of rehabilitation, Sri Lanka has announced that the camp inmates can leave and stay with families and relatives.

To thin the camps further, the government proposes to let the Tamils be with their friends if they are willing to host them.

Colombo also wants to set up a system under which those in camps in Vavuniya district in the north can go during the day to work in the adjoining district of Mannar.

However, two districts – Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, which is where the LTTE was mainly based – remain out of bounds for Tamils as well as Tamil MPs.

This was conveyed to New Delhi by a team from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the largest Tamil grouping in Sri Lanka’s parliament, when it visited India last week.

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at [email protected])