COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is against the repatriation of Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu at the present juncture, an informed source in the Lankan government told Express on Sunday.
The source said that while the Lankan government is all for the return of refugees from India and elsewhere, it does not want any refugee to be forced to come back.
Referring to the 100,000-odd Lankan refugees living in over 100 camps and other places in Tamil Nadu, the source said, “Over the last 30 years or so, the Lankan Refugees in Tamil Nadu have established various types of ties with local communities in India. It is not possible for them to delink themselves from these ties and uproot themselves at short notice. The refugees should come only when they are ready to do so.”
The source further said that the Lankan government needs to resettle Lanka’s own Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) first. According to the Minister for Resettlement, D M Swaminathan, there are 26,056 Tamils still living in refugee camps in the war-ravaged Northern Province.
The Lankan government also feels that it will be inopportune to talk of getting back Tamil refugees from India when parliamentary elections are to be held in June. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government is keen that refugee repatriation should not become an issue which can exploited by ultra-nationalistic and anti-Tamil forces in the crucial elections.
However, the government of India is keen to start the repatriation process and had raised this issue when SL Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi recently. Later, it was announced in Colombo, that the matter will be discussed at the highest level during the visit of Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to India in February, and Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka in March.