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Indian MPs led by Swaraj on Lanka visit

New Delhi: A multi-party MPs delegation embarked on a six-day visit to Sri Lanka during which they will oversee developmental projects by India and handing over of houses in the areas worst affected by the decades-old civil war. The delegation led by Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj left for Colombo this evening and will visit northern and eastern Sri Lanka, which bore the brunt of three decades of bloodshed, besides making a visit to central and southern parts of the island.

The delegation, that has members from Congress, BJP, CPI(M), SP, BJD and JD(U), would be in Sri Lanka for six days from today and will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other leaders to press for a political solution to the Tamil question. The MPs, five of whom are from Tamil Nadu where the Sri Lankan Tamils issue is emotive, will also hold talks with leaders of the Tamil National Alliance, which has emerged as a credible political force of the minority community, and the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress to get their views.

Two major political parties in Tamil Nadu — AIADMK and DMK — pulled out of the visit at the last minute. During its visit to Mullaitivu, once the nerve-centre of LTTE`s military operations, the delegation will hand over medical equipment to hospitals, newly-built houses to beneficiaries and distribute bicycles to needy Tamils.

"The primary focus of the delegation will, however, be in the areas recovering from thirty years of conflict in the North and East of Sri Lanka where development assistance projects for the resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs and reconstruction of areas affected by the conflict are being undertaken by India," the Ministry of External Affairs said. In a statement, the Ministry said the delegation will start its programme in Northern Sri Lanka with a visit to the IDP Camp at Menik Farm.

The MPs are scheduled to visit Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Jaffna, Kankesanthurai, Kalutara, Dickoya, Hatton and Batticaloa where Indian assistance projects are under implementation. The delegation is also scheduled to meet a wide cross-section of parliamentarians, Pradesiya Sabha members, civil society and community leaders in the Northern Province, the statement said.

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