CHENNAI: Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Wednesday urged PM Narendra Modi to defer the inter-ministerial meeting in New Delhi on Friday on voluntary repatriation of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu as the “conditions in Northern and Eastern provinces in Lanka are still not conducive for repatriation”.
“The process of voluntary repatriation could be considered only after the Lankan government takes concrete and credible measures besides giving verifiable assurances to gain the confidence of refugees in Tamil Nadu to return to their native land. The meeting to discuss voluntary repatriation of refugees is premature and should be deferred,” the CM said in his letter to Modi.
Panneerselvam observed that the Tamil refugees in the State were particularly concerned about the pace and manner in which internally displaced persons within Lanka were being rehabilitated. The autonomy and democratic rights of the Tamils must be fully protected and they should not be subjected to further persecution, he added. “Only after such measures are taken and confidence restored, will the refugees be able to even countenance any possible voluntary repatriation. Our interactions with the refugees and the NGOs working with them also reinforce this conclusion,” he said. “The atmosphere of fear have not dissipated. There is a concern that Tamils could be reduced to a minority even in their traditional habitations,” the CM observed.
He though the recent political developments in Lanka had raised expectations of reconciliation, there were still apprehensions about the presence of the Lankan Army in Tamil areas. “The positive intention of the new government in Lanka to ensure rehabilitation and reconciliation are yet to translate into action,” he said, adding that 3,04,269 refugees came to TNin four phases from July 24, 1983, while none had come since 2013. So far about 2,12,000 refugees had gone back by their own arrangement, with assistance from government and UNHCR. At present, there were 1,02,055 refugees in TN.
Meanwhile, in a later development, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice Chairman E M Sudarsana Natchiappan, who held discussions with refugees and fishermen, said it would recommend to the Centre to grant Indian citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who want to remain in the country.