June 11, 2009 / 11:10 AM / in 10 years

Major post-war aid to Sri Lanka will take time-Japan

COLOMBO, June 11 (Reuters) - Japan said on Thursday Sri Lanka needs to wait until “the dust of the war” settles before donors take a closer look at the massive development aid needed to rebuild after a 25-year war with Tamil Tigers.

Japan’s special envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi, also said there had been “tangible progress” in the care given to nearly 280,000 refugees displaced by the war, but said demining the former Tiger areas is the biggest challenge remaining.

“I hope there’ll be at some point in time a new major attempt for supporting Sri Lanka, for new inputs for peaceful development and rehabilitation, but we have to wait until the dust of the war ... settles down,” Akashi told reporters.

Akashi, who was on his 18th trip to the Indian Ocean island, said any major donor programme on a par with the $4.5 billion pledged after an ultimately doomed 2002 peace deal would require continued discussions with other countries and organisations.

Sri Lanka has angered Western governments by accusing them of employing double standards in criticising how it fought the last stage of the war.

It also engineered a diplomatic coup at the U.N. Human Rights Council that stopped Western-led moves there seen as a precursor to possible war crimes inquiries.

Japan abstained at the voting of the UNHRC possible war crimes debate.

Akashi’s visit came as the government initiated the second phase of refugee resettlement since Sri Lanka’s military finished off the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and declared total victory in the quarter-century war on May 18.

Sri Lanka now has nearly 280,000 people living in refugee camps, and has pledged to resettle the bulk of them in six months even though thousands of landmines buried across formerly LTTE-held areas must first be cleared.

“This is a gigantic task and as you know government and forces are working very hard,” he said. Japan and other countries are willing to extend support and expertise, he said.

Akashi during his visit toured Manik Farm, the largest camp with 210,000 people, and said things had improved since his last visit five weeks ago. “The water supply is simply enough. I don’t say that it is completely satisfactory. Sanitation is one of the areas that needs attention,” he said.

The charity World Vision on Thursday warned that more impending monsoon rains could spread diseases if sanitation and drainage were not improved quickly. In a statement, the group said it had “adequate access to the camps”.

The government has all along pledged to give increased aid agency access to the camps, after the security services weeded out Tamil Tiger rebels masquerading as civilians. (Editing by Bryson Hull and Sugita Katyal)

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