Lanka announces sops to Tamils ahead of Sirisena's India visit

 The new Sri Lankan government on Thursday announced a series of conciliatory measures aimed at the Tamil minority in the war-ravaged northern province, just days ahead of President Maithripala Sirisena's maiden visit to India.

Colombo: The new Sri Lankan government on Thursday announced a series of conciliatory measures aimed at the Tamil minority in the war-ravaged northern province, just days ahead of President Maithripala Sirisena's maiden visit to India.

Sirisena will arrive in India on February 16, his first overseas visit after being elected president last month.

Acting cabinet spokesman and minister Lakshman Kiriella said that some 1,000 acres of land under Sri Lankan Air Force's control in the high security zone of Palaly in the northern Jaffna peninsula are to be released.

Sirisena in his capacity as the Minister of Defence is to release 220 acres out of the 1,000 to resettle some 1,022 families displaced by the war.

"Under this project each family will receive 20 perches (0.125 acres) of land and financial assistance to build a house", D M Swaminathan, the Minister of Resettlement said.

A similar release of land will also be made in the eastern province, Swaminathan added.

Ahead of the Sri Lankan President's New Delhi visit, the cabinet has also approved several India-related decisions.

These include a waiver on the requirement for obtaining visas for Sri Lankan and Indian officials holding diplomatic passports, enhanced higher educational links, on investment promotion, agricultural cooperation, construction of houses in the plantation regions for Tamils of Indian origin, and customs cooperation.

The government announcement on the release of lands and resettlement came two days after the northern provincial council adopted a resolution accusing the previous government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of committing genocide against the Tamils.

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