Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena has handed over a hundred new houses to the internally displaced people (IDPs) living in camps in the Tamil-majority north of the island nation. "We can finally live in peace. We can thank our president for this settlement" some of the beneficiaries told AsiaNews. The houses were built in record time (four months) in Keeramalai, on the Jaffna peninsula as a result of his visit to the Konartpulam IDP camp in Tellippalai, Kankasenthurai, shortly after his election. Inaugurated on 31 October in a solemn ceremony, the houses were built by the army, but also by former Tamil Tiger rebels and the beneficiaries themselves. The Keeramalai Housing Project covers an area of 47 acres, near the Palaly army cantonment area. It also has a community centre, a fish market, a police station, a playground and a nursery.
This initiative is not the first of its kind. The president has already returned land to its rightful Tamil owners who had had it expropriated during the three decades of civil war. When he met some of the IDPs, he was shocked that some were still living in tents after more than 20 years. After that meeting, Sirisena ordered the Ministry of Defence to build the houses and close the refugee camp as soon as possible. Various regiments worked day and night to deliver the houses, each measuring 50 sqm. with two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room with kitchen, and a bathroom.
When the keys were handed over to new residents, they could not hide their emotion. One of them, Rasamani Sivaneshwaram, 46, spent half his life in tents. "We are grateful to the president,” he said. “This means a lot to me and my family. We have the security of a home in which to sleep." (Source:AsiaNews)