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NPC must live up to its expectations

With yesterday's elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), Sri Lanka has set up its ninth Provincial Council. Following the Supreme Court order to demerge the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, two separate Provincial Councils had been set up to replace the former North-Eastern Provincial Council which was established way back in 1987 after the then J.R. Jayewardene-led Government introduced the Provincial Council system in the country.

It is now up to the newly elected officials of the Northern Provincial Council to develop the province and meet the aspirations of the people in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Mannar districts. If they fail to deliver the goods and address the people's aspirations in the province, the people in the North would lose faith in the Provincial Council system and seek the assistance of the Government to develop the North.

Irrespective of the party elected to run the provincial administration, the NPC will find it by no means an easy task to achieve the Government's development feats.

After the Northern Province was liberated from the clutches of LTTE terror, the Government accomplished unprecedented development in the North which has set new world standards. No other country, devastated due to terrorism or war, had developed a liberated area at such rapid pace.

Infrastructure development, de-mining, resettlement and livelihood-oriented programs have been successfully implemented in the North in the shortest possible time. In a little over four years since terrorism was eradicated, the Government has not only achieved all these goals, but also ensured that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces record an unprecedented growth rate of over 27 percent each.

Hence, it would be a daunting task for the TNA to practise what it preaches. The former Tiger proxy party played the racist card to woo the Northern voters and even went to the extent of presenting a separatist agenda to win the hearts of LTTE sympathisers.

During their controversial election campaign, the TNA leaders openly said that people in the North would take up arms to win their demands.

Nevertheless, it would be the TNA which would have to pay the supreme price eventually, if they continue to go against the people's aspirations and dance to the tune of the LTTE rump in the West. If the TNA fails to develop the area and keep pace with the current mega development work in the North, the people would teach the TNA a good lesson for becoming a traitor.

Irrespective of the TNA's performance at yesterday's NPC elections, people in the North still recall how the TNA turned a blind eye when they were at the receiving end due to LTTE terrorism. Though the TNA leaders are now shedding crocodile tears over the Tamils in the province, the Northerners have not forgotten the treatment meted out by the LTTE when the hapless civilians were forcibly held as a human shield by the Tigers.

As far as the massive development in the North is concerned, nobody could dispute the role played by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa under the Northern Spring program. On the direction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Minister of Economic Development spared no pains to develop the province in next to no time to usher in a new lease of life for those liberated from the jaws of LTTE terror.

With Minister Basil Rajapaksa stepping down from the Northern Spring program to pave the way for the NPC to take over, it will be the duty of the Provincial Council administration there to continue the good work and the standards set by the Minister.

The province which had been devastated by the LTTE through its terror acts, could now boast of mega development projects. It goes without saying that the Northern Province has the best teaching hospital with seven base hospitals, 57 divisional hospitals and 102 curative medical institutions.

The North could also boast of a strong public health sector with over 600 nurses, 366 medical officers and 68 consultants in Government hospitals and medical centres. This is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement, compared to the other provinces as health facilities in the Northern Province have improved vastly.

The government has provided all facilities, such as houses, electricity, pure drinking water, sanitation, health, education, irrigation and other infrastructure for the majority of people in the North. The Government has also recorded outstanding progress in providing shelter for displaced people.

The government has already built 46,923 houses with the assistance of the United Nations, Sri Lanka Army and other donor institutions. The Indian government has agreed to build another 50,000 houses while 1,000 houses have already been completed. With the completion of the Indian housing project, over 90 percent of the housing needs of the Northern Province will be met.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa earned plaudits for the dynamic role he played towards the success of the Uthuru Wasanthaya - the Northern Spring. It is one of the most successful projects launched by the Government on the direction of the President.

The Government faced many a challenge to ensure the people's security in the North and the East, resettlement of displaced civilians, rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres and developing the North and the East after LTTE terrorism was eradicated in May 2006.

The Special Task Force appointed by the President to rebuild the Northern Province under the guidance of Minister Rajapaksa had achieved its cherished goals at the time the NPC was set up.

The Government also made a significant contribution in the education sector in the North, spending millions of rupees to improve education facilities. Of the 1,020 Northern schools that were destroyed by the LTTE, the Government built 982 schools with 14,826 teachers for 255,106 students.

With the democratic rights of the people in the North being restored with the NPC elections yesterday, the Government has accomplished all urgent needs in the province which has now been connected to the national grid after 23 years. The electricity supply to the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts was non-existent in 2009. But today, over 50 percent of the population in the area has access to electricity.

The Northern rail track which was destroyed by Tiger terrorists has been rebuilt and the popular Yal Devi train resumed its services from last weekend. This would be a big boon for agriculture in the area and the Northern farmers are now making a tangible contribution to the national coffers.

Although over 85 percent of the people in the North depend on agriculture, the total paddy production in 2009/10 was only 113,382 metric tons. Thanks to the Government's facilities, it increased to 225,720 metric tons in the 2012/13 Maha season.

The resumption of fishing in the Northern and the Eastern coast was a fillip to the economy as the purchasing power of the people in the two provinces had increased considerably.

It won't be an easy task for anybody to match the successful Northern Spring program accomplished by the Government at a staggering cost of USD 3,000 billion, with preferential treatment for the Northern Province.

Hence, the people in the North would closely monitor the conduct of the newly elected NPC members, especially the TNA representatives. They could no more play the racist or separatist card to hoodwink the Northern voters. At the same time, the TNA should not anticipate anything outside the mandate of the Provincial Council Act to disrupt the hard-earned peace.

The LTTE leadership took the Tamils for a good ride and as a result, the entire nation suffered the scourge of terrorism for almost three decades. Power-hungry TNA politicians are now trying to give a democratic face to the LTTE's separatist agenda. What the LTTE failed to achieve with the bullet will not be given to the TNA through the ballot.

The TNA is doing its damnedest to capitalise on the war mentality created among Tamil youth in the North and the East. It is an unpardonable crime if Tamil politicians are attempting to exploit the youth in the North to gain their petty political goals. The TNA should bear in mind that the aspirations of the Tamil Diaspora in the West run contrary to those of the ordinary Tamil citizens in the North.

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