The most important human right for the people of the conflict affected North-Eastern provinces was to get basic facilities to restart their lives at the end of the conflict, and the Government provided facilities within a short period of time for that, ensuring their basic rights. Now the people of these areas are experiencing a peaceful life after three decades, and normalcy has set in according to Senior Adviser to the President and Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, when he met the representatives of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday.
The delegation was headed by OHCHR Asia Pacific and Middle East and N. African Branch Chief Hanny Megally who was accompanied by OHCHR Human Rights Officer, Rule of Law and Democracy selection Oscar Solers.
“During the conflict period, the Government provided foodstuffs and other basic requirements to both the people of the Government-controlled areas and LTTE-controlled areas with no discrimination. Even the LTTE used to get major part of these provisions as they attacked a ship which was carrying basic provisions to the North Eastern provinces. But with the help of IRCS we were able to continue these services,” Minister Rajapaksa further said.
“At the end of conflict our biggest problem was to build IDP camps for more than 300,000 people and maintain them properly until resettle these people. First we had to provide food and drinking water for these starving people, then set up camps with basic facilities. When we started to setup semi permanent shelters in order to face the rainy season some people deliberately attempted to explain it as a move to resettle IDPs in these camps permanently and even some organisations stopped helping us. Despite all these obstacles, we were able to maintain over 300,000 IDPs with good shelters, drinking water, food, sanitation facilities, medicine and other facilities. Our next task was to resettle IDPs at the end of the conflict. We had to clear the disaster areas and then start the demining program. We did humanitarian work and battlefield demining to ensure a mine-free life for all IDPs. We built new houses and renovated the damaged houses. IDPs were resettled in their original places. Then they were provided cash grants, roofing sheets, cement, kitchen kits, agriculture kits and emergency medicines. Thereafter we started to help them with their livelihood development programs, restoring agriculture, livestock and fishing industries,” the Minister added.
Simultaneously the Government initiated massive infrastructure development program in the affected areas. Roads, irrigation facilities, water, electricity, education facilities, hospitals and bridges were reconstructed, renovated and newly built.
“Now the people in these two provinces are enjoying a very peaceful life after three decades of uncertainly and fear. No road blocks or check points, no mining, no fear of sudden explosions, no sounds of gun fighting. The Government has safeguarded the human rights of these people by ensuring a life without fear and uncertainly, providing facilities to start new lives in their original places, developing infrastructure and helping to develop livelihoods,” said Minister Rajapaksa.
Responding to query by the delegation, Minister Rajapaksa said still there are some problems such as getting back IDPs now in camps in India and resettling old IDPs.
Answering another question posed by the delegation, Minister stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UPFA Government are the paying highest attention to win the hearts and minds of these people. “We are successful to some extent as seen in the Eastern election results. The UPFA won the highest number of votes from the Eastern province. Communal politics will divide people, but I am certain that the people will reject communal politics very soon,” he said. United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Subinay Nandy, Ministry of Economic Development Director General Prof. Sunanda Madduma Bandara, Secretary to the PTF S.B. Divaratne, Ministry of Economic Development External Affairs Director General Saroja Sirisena and Ministry of External Affairs Director General U.L.M. Jauhar also participated at this discussion.