Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 August 2009





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Restoring glory to North

Northern Province Governor Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri outlines the post-conflict development, rehabilitation and resettlement plans for the province in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer. He expressed confidence that the North would return to its days of prosperity soon.

Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri

Q: With the liberation of the entire Northern Province by the Security Forces, the Government is taking action to restore normal life there. How is the present situation?

A: The Northern Province is returning to normality. This is not going to give results in a fortnight. Terrorism was affecting us for more than three decades especially in the North and with its enormous destruction the people and the area need a considerable time to come back to their day to day life.

Q: How is the progress of the development work?

A: It is carried out at a commendable pace. For the past nearly three months since mid May, the Government was able to start the resettlement of Internally Displaced People. This in itself, is a yardstick in measuring the success of the work carried out. The development work was carried out even when the war continued, especially with the dedicated service of the Task Force for ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ under the directive of its Chairman Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa. Programs functioned according to plan and deadlines. He was personally inspecting each and every project and program visiting the sites. His commitment catalyzed the entire process. The projects are carried out with a lot of dedication and commitment by relevant parties. The main focus of the development drive is to rebuild the entire North in a minimum time period and make those people effectively involved in contributing to the national economy.

Q: What is the development progress in the Jaffna peninsula?

A: Many development activities take place in Jaffna. At local government level we are trying to promote local tourism and with the assistance of the central government to re-establish tourist attractions in the area. As the first step we are planning to develop the Casuarina beach in Karainagar. Providing water supply and electricity power supply systems is taking place and building accommodation facilities for tourists can be done by the local government. We have already decided to reconstruct the interior of the Jaffna Fort and construct most of the important buildings that were inside the fort previously. Resettlement is taking place around the cleared areas of the High Security Zone and especially areas like Point Pedro, Manalkadu and Chavakachcheri are now open for resettlement.

To improve the quality of the land by stopping salt water seeping in to the arable lands, especial structures are being built in Arali, the latest, and in Thondamanaru to block the sea water. With this improvements we have assessed that a vast area of land will become suitable for cultivation. I requested the de-mining NGOs to focus on clearing areas concerned for development activities.

Q: Being newly appointed as the Governor could you explain the new situation in the province?

A: It is a new chapter for the entire province. The main access roads are getting developed, towns and villages destroyed by the terrorists are being rebuilt to suit habitation, displaced people are getting resettled in their original plots of land and much development work is taking place and definitely will continue. On top of all these, de-mining of the newly liberated areas is moving ahead in all five districts. We can see growth in many livelihoods of the people, especially in fishing. The number of freezer trucks is increasing gradually. Along with the development and resettlement it is crucial that we assure the safety of the people.

Q: What is the main focus in the mega development plan?

A: The main focus is on resettling displaced people, development and ensuring security of people. Under the direct instructions of the chairman of the Task Force for the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ Basil Rajapaksa, all the reconstruction and development activities are taking place swiftly. As for the repairing and reconstructing of the infrastructure facilities many roads, especially rural roads are reconstructed by the Provincial councils and A, B category roads by the Road Development Authority. Most of the major and minor irrigations systems are being repaired and reconstructed. Schools, Government offices, hospitals and all such public buildings are gradually getting renovated. The relevant ministries are in the process of laying electricity power supplying lines, water supply systems particularly in Vavuniya, Mannar and Kilinochchi districts.

In Mullaitivu de-mining is taking place.

Q: How is the progress of the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ 180 days program?

A: The main focus is implementing the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ program. Actually this is the main development drive that is in force under Mahinda chinthanaya. The entire program focuses on three main lines - i.e. resettlement, infrastructure development and security and safety of the people. The ongoing development program is very much complicated as it is happening in an area where almost everything needs to start from point zero. The dedication and commitment of Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa and the Task Force team of officials is astounding. The reviews are not just done in meetings, which could have been the easy way out, but site visits, meeting people and learning their responses could be the best yardstick.

Q: What is the present status of the resettlement program?

A: Resettlement is a complicated process. Firstly the areas should be cleared of landmines and other Improvised Explosive Devices set by the LTTE. The Sri Lanka Army is doing a major part of the de-mining work. In the Musali DS Division in Mannar district people were resettled first. Then Internally Displaced People living in the Cheddikulam transit camps were allowed to go back to their houses. More than 1094 people belonging to 439 families left the camps and 189 families left for Kantale, 33 families left for Trincomalee, 56 families went to Ampara, and 52 families to Jaffna. And in Jaffna 3112 people of 1051 families were released from welfare villages in Jaffna and these people were original settlers in 15 DS Divisions.

The Government provides transport to all these resettling people and each family is given a package of dry food items such as rice, sugar, macaroni, green peas, wheat flour etc along with vegetable oil and vegetables. Separately they were given another package of clothing items, basic medicine items, biscuits, milk powder, tea leaves packets, plates and cups relevant to the number of members in the family.

Until they are properly settled in their villages the line ministries through the District Secretary will provide them with their requirements. In Mannar 122 families were resettled in Saveripuram in the Musali DS Division in end of April and the second batch of 561 families in another seven GN divisions in Musali in early June. Their requirements are catered through the District Secretary, coordinated with the Ministry of Resettlement and other relevant institutes.

Q: How does the Government plan to conduct the resettlement program?

A: De-mining has to be completed in those particular areas first. This cannot be done hurriedly. Several Non Governmental Organizations are involved in the de-mining process with the major part done by the Sri Lanka Army.

Several areas north of Vavuniya are de-mined and other parts are in the process of getting cleared. In Kilinochchi nine villages are almost nearing the end of the clearing process. And as soon as we get the clearance certificate from the Army the infrastructure development and repair work can start and we can go for the resettlement. We have to wait for the Clearance Certificate from the Army since these areas are spotted with land mines set by the LTTE and ultimately people will suffer mentally and physically injured by stepping on those.

Plans are under way to resettle another 578 people of 194 families in Jaffna from welfare centres in Jaffna and we are trying to locate original Jaffna residents now living in the transit camps in Cheddikulam. They will be resettled in their houses in the near future.

Q: Most of the people in the North depend on fisheries and agriculture as a livelihood. What are the steps taken by the Government to upgrade their livelihoods ?

A: Day by day the number of lorries carrying the fishing harvest is increasing. With the issue of security clearances more vehicles can start moving along the A9 road. Fishing harvest from Mannar was reaching Colombo and Southern parts in the normal way but Jaffna fishermen and farmers had a problem in sending their harvest via road since the LTTE blocked the A9 road at certain points for the past several years. Now all the restrictions are cleared and the path for development has become clear. Jaffna fishermen are experiencing a problem with the availability of ice for storage facilities and now lorries returning from Colombo and other southern parts bring these ice cubes to Jaffna. Though the cool storage facility is available in Jaffna with the increasing demand from the fishing community, we will take steps to upgrade the facilities as soon as possible.

Since areas like Mannar, Kilinochchi and Jaffna had record stocks of harvest, even in the recent past, we are taking many steps to restore that lost prosperity. De-mining is carried out in a major way around Giant tank to free the vast lands of abandoned paddy fields from landmines in the ‘rice bowl’ for cultivation to start. Major and minor irrigation systems and canals are under repair in Mannar including the Giant Tank and in those in Vavuniya. Grants are allocated for repair and reconstruction work of irrigation systems in Kilinochchi. All these take place under the umbrella of ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ 180 days program.

With the revitalization of farming communities in the Province seed paddy is issued to farmers as the resettlement progresses - this is free of charge. In addition they will also be facilitated with a monetary grant to assist them in preparing their lands for cultivation. Focus is on promoting home gardening as well as back yard poultry especially in the resettled villages. And the usage of organic fertilizer is encouraged. Depending on the requirements farmers are also provided with push bicycles and water pumps.

Already dairy villages have been established in Mamaduwa, Omanthai, Vavuniya, Vavuniya south and north. Establishing dairy villages will continue as people get resettled. The private sector will also be involved into this effort. Milk trade outlets and milk collecting centres will be built in the future. A lot of resources are available in these areas and by effectively getting the optimum use of these resources we strongly believe the agriculture sector of the province can be revitalized very successfully.

Q: With the new developments taking place in every sector are there any plans for setting up new administrative centres?

A: Plans are afoot to establish Mankulam in Vavuniya North as the administrative and development hub and focal point.

Q: The Northern Province still does not have a political leadership. How does this situation change your role from the normal Governor’s responsibilities?

A: Since a democratically elected political leadership is not yet well established in the Province, it is the Governor’s responsibility to look into all the aspects of development, administration and supervise the effective implementation of the program. At present, the Northern Province needs to be rebuilt and it has to happen without unnecessary delays. That is the need of the hour and the path we must take.

Q: Do you believe that the rebuilding process will be a greater challenge for the country?

A: It may seem to be a challenge. But the Government faced the same kind of situation in the East. With the instructions of Chairman of the Task Force Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa the De-mining NGOs are requested to give attention to clear areas concerned for resettlement and development. And we as the authorities are assessing to locate areas that can be prioritized in the resettlement and development process.

With all these efforts, I’m certain, we can bring back the glory of the good old days to this prosperous land and its people.



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