Sept 25, Colombo: The United Nations today welcomed the closure of Sri Lanka's last Internally Displaced Persons' Manik Farm camp in Vavuniya and calling the government's measure to resettle the last batch of IDPs a milestone'.
The Menik Farm in the Northern Province housed nearly 300,000 IDPs just after Sri Lanka's brutal 30-year war ended in 2009.
"This is a milestone event towards ending a chapter of displacement in Sri Lanka some three years after the civil war which ended in May 2009. But there are still some people who are unable to return to their homes and a solution urgently needs to be found," the United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Subinay Nandy said in a statement.
According to the Competent Authority for IDPs in the Northern region, 1,186 people belonged to 361 families left the Manik Farm IDP camp in Vavuniya today.
The UN however said that it is concerned about 346 people (110 families) who are returning from Menik Farm to Kepapilavu in Mullaitivu District, who are unable to return to their homes which are occupied by the military.
"Instead, they are being relocated to state land where they await formal confirmation about what is happening to their land in the future, and plans for compensation if they cannot return," the statement said.
The UN said although the dispalced are at present unable to return to their former land, the government is providing them with land in another area.
"The Government is looking for solutions but it is important that the displaced people should be able to make an informed and voluntary decision about their future including being part of the planning and management of their resettlement," Nandy said.
During the existence of the Manik Farm camp, the camp provided shelter to 225,000 people in 700 hectares of land, according to the UN.
The government recently told a UN team visiting country that it some lands needed for the expansion of the Palaly airport and the Kankasanthurai Harbor will be acquired after paying compensation to legitimate owners.
"The closure of the camp is a significant sign of the transition from conflict to sustainable peace and the commitment of the Government to resettling tens of thousands of people back to their homes," the humanitarian coordinator said.
"But there are still many people living with friends and relatives particularly in Jaffna and Vavuniya, or living in welfare centers. Some of these people have been displaced for years and they also need a lasting solution," he said.
The UN official called on the Sri Lankan authorities to fully implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) concerning the rights of people displaced by the conflict. "Allowing people to settle anywhere in the country and resolving legal ownership of land for those who have resettled away from their original homes is a key part of the reconciliation process."