Sri Lanka conflict-trapped civilians only 65,000: minister

Feb 13, 2009 (LBO) – Contrary to claims that several hundred thousand civilians are trapped in a conflict area in the northeast of Sri Lanka, the latest official estimate is that only 65,000 people remain, a government minister said. Disaster relief services minister Rishad Badurdeen said 34,430 people have escaped from remaining Tamil Tiger controlled areas and have come to government controlled areas.

Badurdeen said there were only about 65,000 civilians remaining in conflict areas. Other estimates have ranged from 150,000 to 250,000.

The government has now started to build four villages to house former residents of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu areas by clearing a 1,000 acre site in the jungles of the Chettikulam area of Vavuniya district.

Construction of the first 10,000 semi-permanent houses has now started with four government construction and engineering agencies being given the task, he said.

The government was expecting between 30,000 to 40,000 families to be housed in four villages named Ramanathan, Kadirgamar, Coomaraswamy and Arunachalam, Badurdeen said.

Schools, technical training centres and health facilities have been started at the villages, which will have ‘semi-permanent’ housing, he said.