Sri Lanka to resettle displaced before polls

Sri Lanka denied attempts by the government to settle outsiders in the northern province to change its true demography.

Updated: Jul 30, 2012, 22:49 PM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka on Monday said it will resettle all people displaced due to ethnic strife in the northern province before elections were held there, but denied attempts by the government to settle outsiders in the region to change its true demography.

Senior minister Basil Rajapaksa said today that all communities displaced from the north during the decades old separatist campaign need to be resettled and the voters list updated accordingly before elections were held in the former LTTE stronghold.

During the violent separatist campaign, the LTTE had forced out Sinhalese and Muslim communities from the north. They have moved elsewhere and lived as displaced in other parts of the island.

Thousands of Tamils were also displaced from the province during the last phase of the war, and were living in refugee camps.

Rajapaksa said the electoral register of the region also needs to be revised to pave way for the reflection of the true public will belonging to all communities.

He, however, denied allegations that the government was settling outsiders in the north in order to change its true demography.

"What has been happening is the resettlement of displaced original settlers. But in some cases the people need to be encouraged to return in the face of acts of sabotage by certain elements," Rajapaksa said.

The next revision of the electoral register would be due by June 01, 2013.

President Rajapaksa has already declared that the much awaited northern provincial council election would be held by September next year.

Basil Rajapaksa said during the decades old separatist conflict, the LTTE had settled their own supporters in the north by evicting the original holders of property.

He said both the national census and the electoral register revision had shown that the northern population was lower than estimated because of the LTTE evictions.

As a result, the number of seats in the Jaffna district in the national parliament under proportional representation was reduced to six from the original nine.

Sri Lanka has come under international scrutiny for delaying the holding of the northern election after the LTTE`s defeat.

The northern election is being seen as a key reconciliation step in the island`s ethnic strife.