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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008

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Local authorities respond to multi party concerns

In the midst of nearly 100 people comprising steering committee members of 12 political parties in the Matara District and UNP MP Sagala Ratnayake, Southern Provincial Council Agriculture Minister Hemal Gunasekera, other SPC members, government officials, the clergy, farmers, among others, who had gathered to highlight and seek redress to core issues - that of water from the Nilwala Ganga, that is so necessary for cultivation, Special Projects Minister - Mahinda Wijesekera said, " Come up with your action plan and possible solutions and I will help you."

This was in response to the program conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which during the past one year, has been working with representatives of 18 registered political parties through the aegis of the party general secretaries to bring together their representatives in the Galle, Matara and Hambantota Districts in the Southern Province and Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara Districts in the Eastern Provinces, who could bring to the attention of the government, pertinent issues that the people in those districts face.

With many seminars and workshops over a period of time these party representatives were put through their paces to work in tandem for the overall good of not themselves per se but in a process where democracy would prevail.

This program is unique problems are addressed by a group of people from different political parties with diverse views who have come together as a link between the public and political parties, especially those at the helm of affairs and thereby bringing in a new culture - one of working in cooperation irrespective of which party one has affiliations with for the overall good of the country. As a result core issues were identified in all three districts.

The fact that there is no proper water management system was highlighted since the river runs dry during the drought leaving the paddy fields dry as well for lack of water. Thus cultivation is hampered. Another problem is that sea water seeps in which in turn affects cultivation. These are issues that farmers in the district seek solutions to.

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