Nov 18, Colombo: Thousands of Tamil-speaking Muslim people languishing in refugees camps for 22 years after their forcible eviction from their homes in Northern Province by the Tamil Tiger terrorist group LTTE will be re-settled in their original places of residence immediately, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa has said.
''We are determined to resettle these individuals shortly. A high percentage of the displaced individuals are Muslims. We certify that we will take steps to resettle them in their home towns,'' Minister Rajapaksa said addressing a conference on Friday.
A conference titled "Commemorating the 22nd year of the Forcible Eviction of Muslims from the Northern Province" to address the issue of evicted Northern Muslims was held on 16 November at the BMICH in Colombo with Minister Rajapaksa as the Chief Guest.
The 22nd Anniversary of the Displacement of the Muslim Community of the North was marked at the BMICH on Friday.
Minister Rajapaksa was joined by the Minister of Resettlement Gunaratne Weerakoon at the conference organized by the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka. High level Muslim community members and dignitaries and representatives from stakeholders attended the event.
Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka addressing the conference pointed out that the elections in Northern Province cannot be held until the displaced Muslim refugees are resettled.
''Various parties including the international community are talking about the elections in the North. I think we cannot hold a fair and democratic election without resettling these individuals. Therefore the right of the Muslim and Sinhala communities to settle in their home towns should be certified,'' Minister Ranawaka explained.
The conference was held to focus the attention on the plight of more than 60,000 Tamil-speaking Muslim people evicted from the Northern Province by the LTTE in October 1990.
Following the 24-hour eviction from their homes in the North at gun point, the displaced Muslims settled in refugee camps in the Puttalam district and other parts of Sri Lanka.
Their future remains still uncertain 22 years after their eviction and thousands of them are still languishing in camps without being able to return to their original homes in the North even three years after the war ended.
After the end of the war and with the restoration of normalcy the displaced Muslims have expressed their wish to return to their original homes but several matters are complicating their return. Senior Minister A. H, M, Fowzie, Governor of the Western Province Alawi Maulana, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiyutheen, Eastern Province Chief Minister M. Najeeb Abdul Majeed and diplomats, also participated at this meeting.