Menik farm to close
One of the world’s largest camps for displaced persons, Menik Farm in the Vavuniya District, will officially close this week.Minister of Resettlement, Gunaratne Weerakoon, told Ceylon Today the final batch of 405 families will be resettled during this week, bringing to a close a crucial component of the post-war resettlement in Sri Lanka. “By 30 September, all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living within Menik Farm will be resettled,” he said.The final batch of 1,185 persons will be resettled in their places of origin during the week, mostly in Puthukuduirippu in the Mullaitivu District. In July, a total of 512 families (1,481 persons), were resettled in the same district.Menik Farm was set up as a camp for the war-displaced in 2009 and during the height of the war was the temporary home for over 300,000 persons, according to UN statistics. The camp area, spreading over 700 hectares, has both permanent and temporary structures. The temporary structures are currently being dismantled. Chairman, Resettlement Authority, B.H. Passaperuma, said the resettlement drive was currently on, with emphasis on the resettlement of the IDPs from Menik Farm. He said that a special resettlement package was available for the returnees, including building material and dry rations. “It is a set-up grant and the basic requirements for the recommencement of life,” he said. Explaining the delay in resettlement, Weerakoon said it was not possible to complete the task earlier as demining was still in progress. “Some areas are still being mine-cleared. People also do not have habitable homes to return to. So the reconstruction work is on-going,” he said A spokesperson for the Mine Action Project of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) explained that some 112 square km of land remained contaminated across 10 districts. “Most of it is in Mullaithivu,” he said.Meanwhile, the temporary shelters that collectively formed Menik Farm are currently being dismantled, Government Agent of Vavuniya, Bandula Harischandra said. Currently, the government is focusing on seven key areas under its resettlement initiative, including water and sanitation, road access to IDP villages, electricity, education, community development initiatives, fishing and agriculture and livelihood support. “Menik Farm IDPs are a priority. Once they are resettled, we will ensure speedy resettlement of others,” Weerakoon added.