The Sri Lankan government on Monday said less than 2 lakh displaced Tamil civilians remained to be resettled in their districts of origin and officials were taking steps to expedite their return home.
Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasingha said 196,088 (internally-displaced persons) IDPs have left in camps in the Vavuniya district.
At present, 14 mine-clearing machines were operating to expedite resettlement, he said, adding 10 more machines would soon be deployed.
But questions remain about the demining process.
In the last one week, the government has claimed to resettle 41685 refugees in four districts including Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, once considered LTTE strongholds.
Till October 15 — and since May, when the 26-year-long war with the LTTE ended — 84 square km of land in the Mannar district had been cleared of mines. And the government’s been saying that the process of resettlement was taking time because areas had to be de-mined before people could be sent back.
Diplomatic sources told HT that landmines still remain scattered over an area of 6,500 sq km. Between half-a-million to one million mines and ‘unexploded ordinance’ remain there.
The 2-lakh strong Sri Lanka army has deployed only 383 soldiers in demining; another 200 are being trained. In contrast, six international groups — including two Indian groups Sarvatra and Horizons — have about 1,500-2,000 trained former armed forces personnel on the ground doing demining.
The two Indian organisations have three groups each with 200 personnel. But it’s the government that decides the areas that are to be de-mined.