Sri Lanka agrees to allow relief ship

June 24th, 2009 - 11:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) Sri Lanka has agreed to allow a ship to off-load its contents, relief material sent by Tamil diaspora, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said here Wednesday after meeting a delegation from the island.
Krishna told reporters he had urged Sri Lanka to give permission to the relief ship as a “humanitarian gesture”.

“The Sri Lankan delegation kindly agreed to our suggestion and the ship would now be routed to Sri Lanka through the Indian Red Cross,” he said.

The ship, MV Captain Ali, was earlier refused permission to dock in Sri Lanka and was anchored off Chennai.

The Sri Lankan delegation included Basil Rajapaksa, the senior adviser to the Sri Lankan president, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse and Lalith Weertunga, secretary to the president.

Basil Rajapaksa too confirmed that Sri Lanka has given a “positive reply” to India on the issue of the ship.

The relief is meant for a large number of minority Tamil civilians who fled their homes as Sri Lankan forces mounted an operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northeast of the island. The LTTE was vanquished last month, bringing an end to a 30-year-old civil war in the nation.

Krishna said Sri Lanka has assured India it will stick to its time frame of 180 days for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes and the dismantling of camps.

“India will assist in the resettlement and rehabilitation process and we are committed to helping in the demining activity, which must be the first step to permit the IDPs’ safe return to home,” he added.

Krishna added that Sri Lanka had committed to devolution of powers to provinces to reach a political solution over the long-standing ethnic crisis.

“I was assured that it is the intention of the government of Sri Lanka to implement the proposal which would be an advance on the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which you would recall was designed to devolve considerable power to the Sri Lankan provinces,” he said.

“During this conversation I stressed that following the cessation of active hostilities in Sri Lanka, there is an opportunity to make a new beginning and to build a better future for all the peoples of Sri Lanka and therefore for the region as a whole,” Krishna said.

Rajapaksa noted that elections will be held in the Tamil-majority region “once people settle down”. He added that the devolution package for Tamils will address India’s concerns.

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