COLOMBO: Among issues high on Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s agenda when he talks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his upcoming Indian visit, are: repatriation of Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu; resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Lanka; and kick starting the long-delayed Indo-Lankan power project at Sampur in the Eastern Province.
Informed sources told Express here on Wednesday, that Sirisena will tell Modi that repatriation of 100,000-odd Lankan refugees from Tamil Nadu to Lanka at this juncture, is not appropriate.
Lanka is reluctant to take up repatriation now for two reasons: Firstly, there is still a backlog of 26,000 Internally Displaced Persons to be resettled. Acquisition of land for resettlement is still an issue. Secondly, the Lankan government feels that it will be inhuman to uproot refugees who have been living in Tamil Nadu for three decades. These have established local ties and have employment. Many are in the process of acquiring an education. “We see repatriation as a humanitarian issue. We don’t believe in forcible repatriation,” said a well placed source.
However, despite its opposition to repatriation, Lanka is keen on India’s continued support to house and provide life skills to the war-displaced Tamil population in the North and East. India has an ambitious project to build 50,000 houses. The project is progressing well in the Northern Province but is yet to take off in the Central Province where the beneficiaries are Tamils of Indian Origin laboring in the tea estates.
India is very keen that the joint venture to build a 12x250 MV coal fired power plant at Sampur in Trincomalee district gets off the ground. Though initiated in 2006, it has been stymied by economic, technical and environmental issues. However, presently, only the environmental assessment report done by a consultant, is to be assessed.
The fishing issue is not likely to be discussed in-depth because the Fisheries Minister is not in the President’s delegation. The delegation includes only Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Resettlement Minister D.M.Swaminathan, Power Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, and Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara.