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* Four steps to handle the issue of Sri Lanka's fleeing civilians
Saturday, February 14, 2009, 17:03 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 14, Colombo: Sri Lanka government plans to handle the issue of fleeing civilians in four main steps, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management said.

Getting the civilians released from the rebel grasp, moving them to safer places in government controlled areas, establishing temporary houses to shelter them and resettling the displaced as quickly as possible, are the four steps the government is planning, addressing a media briefing at the President Secretariat today the Minister explained.

Minister Samarasinghe said the government has already set up a special frame work to succeed this challenge. According to the Minister government hopes to settle the IDP issue before the end of this year.

Minister Samarasinghe vehemently refuted the circulating media reports saying that the government is planning to keep the IDPs in camps for three years. The government policy is to resettle the IDPs in the shortest possible time, the Minister stressed.

Elaborating the process, the Minister said when the IDPs enter the cleared areas the Army receives them and provide emergency medical care followed by a hot meal and water. In addition, rations are distributed. This phase takes about 24-48 hours, the Minister said.

In the second stage which takes about 6-8 weeks, the responsibility of the IDPS is taken by the Government Agent who is responsible for the 11 centers now operating in schools and abandoned government buildings.

In the third stage villages will be set up with facilities. The final stage is the permanent resettlement, the Minister spelled out.

Government statistics revealed that over 35,000 civilians have safely reached the government controlled areas and many more are expected to arrive.

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Cabinet approved the construction of 8,000 semi permanent houses in the five welfare villages for the IDPs arriving from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has given orders to relocate the IDPs as early as possible and provide all facilities schools, banks, post offices, and hospitals for the resettled families.

As an initial step, the government has already supplied electricity to Silawathura and Madhu areas and Mankulam will get it by next week. Repairs on the A-32 road from Mannar to Pooneryn have already begun to facilitate the resettlement process.

Sri Lankan Daily News and Reports

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