Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Resettlement begins near Vavuniya HSZs, 38 villages identified

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The resettlement of residents close to the High Security Zones (HSZs) in Vavuniya will begin this week with Vavuniya Government Agent (GA) K. Ganesh approving a resettlement programme in several locations between Thandikulam and Omanthai High Security Zones (HSZs).
These villages centred around the A9 Jaffna - Kandy highway will be accessible for the former residents as Vanni Security Forces Commander Major General M.D.S. Chandrapala has also approved this decision at a meeting held at GA's office on Saturday, Vavuniya GA K. Ganesh said yesterday.

LTTE Vavuniya district head S. Elilan also participated in this discussion.

The Defence Ministry has identified 38 villages in the Vavuniya region for resettlement. The process will be completed once the Sri Lanka Army and the UNDP De-mining office in Vavuniya certify that the identified areas are free of landmines, Ganesh added.

Under the new resettlement programme, former residents will be able to resettle in Thandikulam, Neerveli, Pannilar, Puliyankulam and several other villages in this locality.

The GA said around 1,000 families will resettle in the 38 villages identified for resettlement.

"This will be a slow process as the Government should ensure that these people are provided their basic facilities and that their lands are free of mines. Otherwise, we will not allow them to return to these locations," Ganesh added.

He said the District Secretariat has already made arrangements to provide Rs.25,000 to each family returning to their former villages under the Unified Assistance Package funded by the Netherlands Government and the World Bank. Around 60 families are likely to return to their former abodes this week.

The members of the Vavuniya branch of the Sub Committee on Urgent Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Needs also met on Saturday and had discussions on facilitating resettlement in these villages.

They were due to submit a report to the SIHRAN office Kilinochchi to improve drinking water, sanitary and health care facilities for those returning to their villages.

The Government has sought advice from Indian Defence expert Lt. General Sathis Nambiar to tackle the problem of High Security Zones (HSZs).

General Nambiar who visited the HSZs in the North - East had reportedly handed over his report to Economic Reforms, Science and Technology Minister Milinda Moragoda during his recent visit to India.

The Government earlier allowed Jaffna farmers to engage in cultivation in certain sections of arable lands in Jaffna HSZs.

The Government is now exploring the possibility of resettling people outside these HSZs before taking action for resettlement within them.