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Nealry SLR 2 billion deposited by Tamil refugees

The internally displaced Tamils have deposited nearly SLR 2 billion in cash and jewellery in banks opened for them in the refugee camps of northern Sri Lanka, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Dec 06, 2009 22:02 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The internally displaced Tamils have deposited nearly SLR 2 billion in cash and jewellery in banks opened for them in the refugee camps of northern Sri Lanka.

That amount translates into more than Rs 810 crore in Indian currency, nearly enough to start an infrastructure company.

Several mobile bank branches with ATMs were functioning in camps in Vavuniya in north Sri Lanka. Thousands of savings accounts and jewellery lockers have been opened in these branches.

``Many of the displaced had come to the camps with cash strapped to their arms and legs. Forty feet containers were transformed into mobile banks so that the people could deposit the money and valuables. Telecommunication facilities were also given so that they could get remittances from relatives abroad,’’ governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Ajith N Cabraal, told HT.

``As more Tamils get resettled, we expect that remittances they have been getting from abroad would also increase,’’ Cabraal said.

He added that in a recent meeting in Jaffna, commercial banks in the five districts of the northern province – large parts of which were under the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – were instructed to release about SLR 1 billion this month in small loans to help Tamils resettle. Seven other financial schemes for the resettled were also being implemented.

``Sixty six bank branches have been approved (to be opened in the northern province). Every week one new branch is being opened,’’ he said, adding that MNC banks might also open branches in the region soon.

Cabraal said the CBSL would be opening a branch office in Kilinochchi, the former administrative capital of the LTTE.

The banking sector is seeing a flurry of activity as Tamil refugees are in getting resettled in the northern districts. According to government statistics, there were 105,672 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps in Vavuniya as of Saturday. At the end of the war against the LTTE in May, there were nearly 3 lakh of them in the camps.

Meanwhile, Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, will be in Sri Lanka on December 8 and 9 in what is the highest-ranking US trip to the island nation since the LTTE was defeated in May.

Blake, a former the ambassador to Colombo, will meet government officials, political leaders and civil society.