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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Uniting the country, President's sincere wish

Construction work on the Northern Expressway will begin next year, according to Highways Project Minister, Nirmala Kotalawala.

The resumption of rail services between Colombo and Jaffna after 24 years and the Yal Devi express train wending its way to Jaffna with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on board thrilled people in the North that they could reach Colombo in a matter of hours.

The Northern Expressway from Enderamulla in Gampaha to Dambulla constructed in four phases, would consist of four lanes initially. Chinese and local contractors would jointly undertake the construction work on the expressway projects to the North and Kandy and it is estimated to cost around Rs. 300 billion.

The first phase of the 53km long highway will be up to Ambepussa.

The first 90km stretch of road will be awarded to local contractors while the remaining will be managed by Chinese contractors. The initial ground work such as identifying the road corridor and finalising the road alignment with tentative acquisition boundaries, has been already completed.

The proposed Enderamulla-Ambepussa stretch of road on the Northern expressway will run parallel to the railway track, through paddy, marshy and uncultivated land and affect only a microscopic number of houses. Most stretches of the road on the highway would run on a higher elevation on concrete pillars to minimise the environmental and social impact.

The 38km-long second phase from Mirigama to Kurunegala will have three interchanges at Nakalagamuwa, Dambokka and Kurunegala. The distance of the third phase of the mega project, from Pothuhera to Kandy is 52km with interchanges at Pothuhera, Rambukkana, Galagedara, Aladeniya, and Gannoruwa. The 60km stage four of the project from Kurunegala to Dambulla comprises three interchanges at Melsiripura, Galewela and Dambulla.

The initial Kandy Expressway project extended to cover the Northern, North Central and the Eastern Provinces on a directive by the President will be fully completed by 2020.

Land acquisition for the Northern Expressway project has already begun and the current market value will be paid for the land acquired. The President has directed that compensation be paid for the lands as an area of 6,819 acres would go for the expressway. Around 2, 750 families and the owners of 1,234 houses would be adequately compensated.

The construction of the Northern Expressway will open a new chapter in Sri Lanka's history. It is not merely a highway that links Colombo and Jaffna but will also strengthen the social and economic bonds between the commercial capital and the Northern peninsula, winning the hearts and minds of people of different ethnicities, religious affiliations and social backgrounds.

It is heartening to behold the Northern Province, the former battlefield of the world's most ruthless terrorist outfit, the LTTE, getting top priority in the country's development drive. Having launched numerous mega development projects in the area, President Rajapaksa had even pledged water from the Mahaweli river for the people in the area to fulfil a long-felt need with a permanent solution.

Such bold measures undoubtedly strengthen the bond between the Tamils and the Sinhalese and would foster the age-old relations between the two ethnic groups to live in peace and harmony along with the Muslims and the Burghers. This land belongs to one and all to live together, sinking petty differences.

Tamil United National Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree was among the first to express his gratitude to President Rajapaksa for returning the pawned jewellery at LTTE 'banks' to its rightful owners, sans the capital and interest on the borrowings.

Last Sunday, President Rajapaksa symbolically inaugurated the return of the gold jewellery to 25 owners in Killinochchi. The Security Forces had identified 2,377 legitimate claimants to hand over a considerable stock of gold and jewellery found in the final battle against the LTTE.

Though disgruntled Opposition politicians spread concocted stories about the gold jewellery recovered from LTTE-held areas, the Security Forces had conducted themselves in an exemplary manner and the Government had shown its transparency by making a concerted effort to locate the original owners.

This amply proves the Government's desire to return everything that was lost due to terrorism, save human lives. The mega development projects such as the Northern Expressway bears out the President's sincere efforts to usher in a better future for the people in the North.

These people had suffered the most due to three decades of LTTE terror. They had been subjected to untold misery by the self-same group which tried to project themselves as the saviours of Tamils.

It is baffling that the TNA, which did not utter a word of comfort when people in the North were at the receiving end of LTTE terrorism, are now attempting to shed crocodile tears for the people in the North. After the Security Forces vanquished the LTTE leadership, the TNA leaders made a desperate effort to project themselves as the sole representatives of the Tamils.

The so-called sole representatives of the Tamils, who still yearn for a separate state, had done precious little for their own community. The TNA took control of the Northern Provincial Council with a myriad promises and the Northerners too felt that 'their own people' would definitely do something more than the representatives of established national political parties. Accordingly, the TNA won the NPC elections and C.V. Wigneswaran was appointed Chief Minister.

Many in the North were under a delusion that Wigneswaran would transform Jaffna into the best city. But lo and behold, his administration of the Northern Provincial Council fared miserably and he even failed to use 90 percent of the funds allocated by the Government. He hit the nadir and the Tamils in the North have now realised his true colours.

The TNA not only failed to run the NPC administration properly but also cut a sorry figure in all Local Government bodies they control in the North and the East. Had it not been for the Government's tremendous volume of development work, the people in the North would have been in the doldrums.

It is pertinent to question whether the TNA politicians who spread racism merely to capture power at any cost, who failed to properly administer even a Local Government body aspire to become the rulers of a so-called dream separate state. People in the North could no longer be fooled and the TNA could not play the racist card because people in the North and the East have now realised the bitter truth.

President Rajapaksa has won the hearts and minds of people in the North and it is only now that they have realised his sincerity. He treats people both in the North and the South alike and is undoubtedly the undisputed leader in the land. He is determined to provide a fair deal for one and all and a peaceful atmosphere for all Sri Lankans to achieve their cherished goals.

It is time the TNA leaders abandon their separatist and racist agenda and unite the communities under the lion flag. The President has even pledged to abolish the Executive Presidency if the TNA does so.

This alone shows the President's sincerity in uniting the country and strengthening national reconciliation. It is the bounden duty of all Opposition politicians to give top priority to this goal rather than seeking petty political mileage.

 

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