Monday, November 29, 1999

Setting deadline for resettlement of Tamils is unrealistic: Lankan Foreign Minister

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Tehran, May 16 (ANI): Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Professor G.L. Peiris has said that setting a deadline to rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils is "unrealistic".In an exclusive interview with the Asian News International, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister spoke in detail about the growing concerns of India on the rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.When asked if the Sri Lankan Government has set any deadline for the rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils in its country, Peiris said: "It is unrealistic to talk of deadline."He said there could be "nothing more destructive of credibility than to set deadlines. I don't think that is the right way to say about it; not to tie yourself with the rigid deadlines.""In a spirit of goodwill, perseverance, to try hard to do it as soon as possible that is very much the aim of the Sri Lankan government. [While] dealing with its own people, nobody can be more concerned than the Government of Sri Lanka," he stated.Ironically, last May, just after the defeat of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), when the election season had just begun, President Rajapakse had set six-month deadline for resettling the displaced Tamils. However, the Sri Lankan government failed to fulfill its commitment.The minister further said: "With the help of friendly countries like India" they can do their best for the people, who have suffered so much from the conflict that lasted for so long.Peiris said: "We started with about 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), which is down to less than 50,000 and even out of these 50,000 keep moving in and out. So very considerable progress has been made with regard to that."Sri Lankan government has come under severe criticism for ignoring and neglecting the human rights of the displaced Tamils, But Peiris disagreed and said: "Government of Sri Lanka is sending food, medical supplies. India has been immensely helpful with regard to that. Recently, they have sent a large quantity of roofing sheet. So the Government of India and other governments have been very helpful in this regard and the humanitarian aspect of things is being catered for it's improving very rapidly.""The Government of Sri Lanka has an obligation. They are our people. We are determined to do the best we can," Peiris said and added: "I would say, in near future, we would expect them all to be settled." By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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