RESETTLEMENT PACE PICKS UP, MORE THAN 41,000 DISPLACED PEOPLE RETURN HOME
Posted on October 26th, 2009

Country Report from Embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC dated 26.10.2009

RESETTLEMENT PACE PICKS UP, MORE THAN 41,000 DISPLACED PEOPLE RETURN HOME

 WASHINGTON “”…” Sri Lanka last week continued to resettle large numbers of people displaced by the recent conflict in the north, launching the next phase of resettlements that will put more than 41,000 people back in their homes over the next few weeks.

The government announced that it will resettle 41,685 persons –12,095 families — in the latest phase of its resettlement program. That phase began Oct. 22.

Once complete, the number of people displaced by the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist group will be about 200,000 “”…” down nearly 30 percent from just four months ago. The latest resettlements are part of the government’s effort to return most of the displaced to their homes by year’s end.
The resettlement program still faces a major obstacle in the presence of landmines in northern villages and farm fields. De-mining has been accelerated “”…” the governor of Mannar told the Asian Tribune that de-mining there is 95 percent completed.

The United Nations must certify that communities are fully de-mined and safe for habitation before residents can return.

Under its current IDP resettlement program, the government has resettled 21,920 internally displaced persons (6,553 families) who were in Vavuniya and Pulmudai welfare centers.

Those IDPs have been resettled in Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Mannar, Trincomalee and Mullaithivu.
In addition, the government has resettled 1,027 persons (279 families) for the first time in the Mullaithivu district, the former LTTE stronghold.

The total number of IDPs in the welfare centers in Vavuniya and Pulmudai has been reduced to 205,179. 
Families that are resettled are provided with non-food items, kitchen utensils, agricultural tool kits, six months of dry rations, an initial payment of $50, a shelter grant of $250, roofing sheets and land preparation costs of $40 per acre, as well as seed paddy, fertilizer and transportation.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Government of India have extended support to the Government of Sri Lanka’s resettlement relief package.

UNILEVER INVESTS Rs 4 BILLION IN SRI LANKA FACILITY

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment signed an agreement with Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd., last week to establish a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant at the Horana Export Processing Zone.

Mr. Dhammika Perera, BOI’s Chairman / Director General, signed the agreement and formally presented the BOI Certificate of Registration to Mr. Amal Cabraal, Chairman of Unilever Sri Lanka. Unilever makes food, personal care and home products.

The investment agreement with Unilever establishes the company’s main manufacturing facility at Horana Export Processing Zone. The new state-of-the-art “green” facility, situated on a 26-acre site, will cater to local demand and could serve as a regional sourcing hub for Unilever.

As of today, Unilever Sri Lanka has 70 years of manufacturing history and produces 95% of all the products it sells in Sri Lanka. This significant investment reflects Unilever’s commitment to its markets in Sri Lanka. The continued investment will ensure that Unilever will continue to provide Sri Lankan consumers with their favorite brands while adding substantially to the nation’s economy.

“By building the new production facility, we will contribute towards Sri Lanka’s industrial and economic success,” Amal Cabraal said. “We will be able to remain competitive and the new production facility provides scope for expansion of the business.”

The decision to choose the BOI Zone in Horana as the site for the new facility was made as part of the Government’s 300 Enterprise Program, which is designed to spread development across the country.

Unilever Sri Lanka has delivered outstanding results despite many challenges, and has achieved seven consecutive years of double digit growth and maintained its overall market dominance.

Today Unilever Sri Lanka is home to 26 brands that are leaders in all the categories that they represent.

Unilever Sri Lanka provides employment to 1,100 people directly and many thousands more indirectly through its dedicated suppliers, distributors and service providers. 

U.S. EMBASSY ANNOUNCES DAIRY DEVELOPMENT IN EASTERN PROVINCE

 COLOMBO — The U.S.  Embassy in Colombo announced recently that U.S. Government had increased its milk supply assistance to the new CIC Yogurt and Curd Factory in Batticaloa.

The embassy stated that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its economic development project, has established a dairy farmer network in Punani, Batticaloa.

USAID partnered with the CIC Mahaweli Livestock & Dairy, a subsidiary of the CIC Agribusiness Ltd., to launch new yogurt and curd factory at the Siddapura farm in Punani, Batticaloa. 

The USAID-funded Connecting Regional Economies (CORE) project joined with CIC Agribusiness Ltd. to form a dairy network of 350 farmers in Welikanda, Polonnaruwa and Punani in Batticaloa district.  This network will supply milk to the new yogurt and curd factory. CIC hopes to expand the factory in the future. 

USAID is connecting farmers who produce the milk with companies that have a market for their products.  The USAID project partnered with CIC to conduct a technical and business basics training for the participating farmers coming from different ethnic backgrounds.  The technical training included topics such as shelters, breeding practices, health, nutrition, milking practices and milk quality to help improve dairy production and incomes of farmers. USAID also provided 50 milk cans to the farmers. 

This assistance from USAID is part of the U.S government’s strategy to increase human and economic security in the East by promoting economic growth in areas affected by and bordering the conflict.  USAID has provided over $13.5 million over the last three years to support economic growth in the region.

SRI LANKAN, U.S. TRADE OFFICIALS SUCCESSFULLY CONCLUDE POST-CONFLICT TRADE TALKS, INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

COLOMBO — U.S. and Sri Lankan trade representatives held their seventh annual meeting recently to discuss a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2002. The Oct. 15, 2009 talks focused on a number of trade issues that are designed to increase commerce between the U.S. and Sri Lanka. Those topics included intellectual property rights, food labeling, garment exports and patent and payment issues.

Sri Lankan delegation characterized the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) talks as productive, noting that the support of the United States gives an important boost to efforts to rebuild the conflict-damaged North and Eastern provinces.

“We have been able to identify areas of cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka,” said Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, “especially in the packaging industry and value additive areas of Sri Lanka’s economy.”

Minister Peiris said increased trade would prove vital to providing steady incomes to those displaced by Sri Lanka’s 26-year-conflict with the LTTE terrorist group. The government defeated the terrorists in May 2009.
U.S. officials likewise praised the talks as helpful to Sri Lanka’s post-conflict development. “We’ve have a very good session on a wide range of issues on trade development between our countries — on the possibilities of existing trade and the possibilities of more,” said Michael Delaney, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative and Head of the U.S. trade team. “The United States understands that Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture in its history. There are enormous possibilities that were not possible a year ago.”

Assistant Secretary Delaney added that U.S.-Sri Lankan trade, worth about $2 billion a year, could increase substantially. The United States, he said, wants to promote U.S. investment in Sri Lanka as a means of aiding post-conflict reconciliation among Sri Lanka’s population.

“This is a situation that has taken an especially good turn for the better,” Delaney further said of the government’s defeat of the terrorists. “Let’s seize this opportunity and make the most of it.”
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the U.S., stated that the TIFA discussions are further evidence that Sri Lanka’s economy is on the rebound.

“Sri Lanka is rebuilding and is open for business,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “As an island nation we have always relied on trade. With terrorism behind us, we want to invite foreign investors to come and share in Sri Lanka’s potential.”

The TIFA talks came in the latter stages of a week-long series of discussions among trade officials from the U.S. and Sri Lankan governments and a variety of businesses that are interested in investing in Sri Lanka. On October 13, about 40 American businesses and 30 businesses from India and Asia met to examine the prospects of a “private-public partnership,” with the two governments.

The delegation on October 14 visited the coastal city of Trincomalee in northeast Sri Lanka to explore opportunities there.

The week of business talks concluded October 16 with a meeting on the “General System of Preferences” that the U.S. extends to goods from Sri Lanka.

BANK OF CEYLON AIDING DEVELOPMENT IN JAFFNA

The Bank of Ceylon has initiated programs for the economic and social development in Jaffna, where growth was hindered by 30 years of terrorist activity.

Bank of Ceylon chairman Dr. Gamini Wickramasinghe said Rs. Ten thousand million has been allocated for the development activities, which are being implemented simultaneous to the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ program of the government. This amount exceeds by two fold the sum allocated for all other districts.

Mr. Wickramasignhe, who paid several visits to Jaffna with bank management staff to prepare for the program, also held discussions with government officers, Jaffna business community leaders and farmers.

As a result of the visit, groups of representatives including Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, presidential advisor former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Rani Jayamaha and the Assistant Central Bank Governor W.M. Karunarathna also visited the Jaffna peninsula and initiated a number of development programs.

First steps included the opening of the Bank of Ceylon branch on Main Street in Jaffna, installation of ATM machines, additional meetings with the business community and agricultural organizations and farmers, the granting of loans, water pumps, tractors, bicycles, other agricultural equipment and the symbolic delivery of 20 dairy cows to Jaffna farmers.

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