By The Hindu –
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had given an assurance of withdrawing the army from civilian areas at the earliest to the Indian joint parliamentary delegation, which visited the country between April 16 and 21.
Virudhunagar MP Manicka Tagore, who was among the four Congress MPs from Tamil Nadu in the delegation, told reporters here on Sunday that in the North, where the army had been camped in strength, even small events required military approval.
Headed by Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, the committee met several top Sri Lankan Government officials besides Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan and other Tamil leaders.
The main objective of the committee, he said, was to ascertain the progress in implementing programmes being carried out with over Rs. 25,000 crore of Indian assistance. While some progress had been made, he said that there was still a long way to go.
He said that only 6,500 people were in the internally displaced person (IDP) camps which initially held over 2.90 lakh persons.
The remaining persons would return to their homes once de-mining operations, being carried out with Indian assistance, were completed in the last five villages. The Sri Lankan rehabilitation officials assured that the process would be completed by June 30. While Sri Lanka was still upset over the Indian vote in the United Nations, the Virudhunagar MP said that they understood India’s point of view.
India had recently supported a United States-sponsored resolution at the U.N.’s top human rights body censuring Sri Lanka for its alleged rights violations during the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
When the committee took up the issue of implementing the 13 Amendment, Mr. Rajapaksa had said that it was being taken up by the Parliamentary Select Committee, which the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had so far been reluctant to join.
Devolution of political powers was stressed during the meeting, he said as the TNA leaders had raised the issue of holding elections in North.
On the issue of attacks on Indian fishermen, Mr. Tagore said that they had met Sri Lankan fishermen, who claimed that, their Indian counterparts were trespassing and using sophisticated equipment for deep sea fishing.
“The Indian and Sri Lankan Governments are trying to evolve a mechanism in which the fishermen on both sides could sit together and sort out this issue,” he added.
In order to improve people-to-people contacts between the two countries, the Sri Lankan President had also assured the Indian MPs that a flight between Colombo and Madurai would be launched soon.