Nearly 1.7 lakh Tamil Internally Displaced Persons have been resettled in their native places, a minister has said, adding that the process of rehabilitation is being hampered by the ongoing de-mining operation in the country's northern part.
"A total of 1,69,938 IDPs have been resettled in their native places within a short period providing them along with provision of health, shelter, sanitary, education, water, electricity and other facilities in their villages," Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe was quoted as saying by the state-owned Daily News on Friday.
The number of IDPs in welfare villages has come down to 1,12,062 from 2,82,000, he added.
Samarasinghe said the government would resettle most of the remaining IDPs by December 31.
Presently 1,05,664 IDPs are in Vavuniya, 1,738 and 2,298 in Jaffna and Trincomalee respectively, he said, adding about 2,360 were receiving treatment in hospitals.
The resettlement process, however, depended on the ongoing de-mining operation. Civilians in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu were awaiting the end of de-mining process to move to their homes, according to reports.
Priority has been given to public roads, common places and villages earmarked for speedy resettlement during the demining process, the Daily News quoted Samarasinghe.
Following President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision, the Sri Lankan government has allowed Tamil civilians free movement from December 1.
Accordingly, 22,443 registered IDPs have moved out during the last three days ending yesterday, he said, adding of this 9,778 have returned.
"Any person can leave the welfare villages and return as they wish. No action will be taken against the persons who won't come back to IDP villages. The freedom is not limited to 15 days," the minister said.
He rejected media reports of armed forces going after the IDPs if they did not return back, the newspaper added.
"It is up to them to decide whether to return or not. What the government did was to grant the freedom for them to move away as they wish. However, the government is carrying out the welfare activities in welfare villages further as usual," Samarasinghe said.
The minister denied any reports suggesting the IDPs were given freedom of movement only for 15 days."Every IDP leaving relief centres were given two passes since the government is responsible for their security and wellbeing. Authorities at the centres retain one pass while the other was given to the IDP," he added.