Batticaloa, the much developed region:
Paddy production increase from 2009
Eravur UC Chairman and SLFP organiser for Batticaloa, Seyed Alizahir
Moulana, a veteran nationalist and patriotic Muslim leader represented
the Batticaloa district in parliament on three consecutive terms from
1994. He played an important role during the height of terrorism by
making the incumbent Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthy
Muraleetharan alias Karuna Amman to join the government, after his
defection from the LTTE to become an active SLFP member promoting
communal harmony in the strife-torn Eastern province.
Midway through his third parliamentary term he resigned as an MP and
took up the diplomatic posting as Minister (Economics) in the Sri Lankan
embassy in Washington and in the post-conflict era, after the total
elimination of terrorism in May 2009, he coordinated with the World
Bank, the IMF and other global monetary organisations in securing
financial support for post-conflict rehabilitation of the country,
especially the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Seyed Alizahir Moulana
In an interview with the 'Sunday Observer' he elaborated on the
multifarious development activities of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in
the Eastern province, what he, as Chairman of the Eravur UC has been
able to achieve, and what he believes as 'unpatriotic attitudes' of
Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe and the then President Chandrika
Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, during the period of the Ceasefire Agreement
(CFA) signed on February 22, 2002.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: You resigned as a parliamentarian in 2004 and left for the
USA to take up an important diplomatic position in the Sri Lankan
embassy in Washington. On your return in 2010 in the post-conflict
period, what changes in relation to rehabilitation and reconstruction,
especially in the North and East, did you observe?
A: As a parliamentarian I often spoke in the parliament and
outside about the deteriorating conditions in the North and East and the
distress of the people but the Government did have its priorities
because the situation was not conducive to undertake any development
activities. But in 2010 when I returned to the country when President
Mahinda Rajapaksa was, in the post-conflict era, running for a second
term seeking the people's mandate for him to continue with his massive
development programs for the country, especially for the North and East,
I saw development virtually in all spheres and the country transforming
at a rapid pace.
At that time I was Minister (Economics) at the Sri Lankan Embassy in
Washington, I was entrusted with dealings with the WB, IMF and other
world monetary organisations on matters relating to Post-conflict
development in Sri Lanka. The President had established contacts with
local leaders at the grass roots level and with the local government
authorities in the North and the East and was providing them the funds
received from Washington for development activities in a concerted
effort to empower the people of the strife-torn regions.
Marked headway was being made in providing infrastructure
development, including road networks and electricity, proper health
services, rehabilitation and reconstruction of tanks, anicuts and
irrigation facilities , improving agricultural productivity, providing
education to the children and livelihood to the farmers, fishermen and
other communities. The Eastern province being an ideal tourist
destination, improvements were also being made to the industry.
The Batticaloa district has now turned out to be a much developed
region virtually in all aspects of development on par with many Southern
regions, thanks to the multifarious development projects implemented
under the 'Mahinda Chintana" Concept since 2009.
The district has recorded the highest yield per hectare in paddy
cultivation and marked progress has been reached in providing livelihood
facilities, including housing, electricity, drinking water and
educational support services.
With agriculture and fisheries being the mainstay of a large majority
of the district's population and the government's focus on transforming
the district as a popular tourist destination, the district is fast
transforming as an important hub of economic and livelihood activities.
Paddy production in the Batticaloa district doubled from 580 mn. metric
tonnes previously to 120,000 Ml metric tonnes in 2014. Earlier, the
farmers were able to do cultivation only in one season whereas they can
now cultivate in both during 'Maha' and 'Yala' seasons. While the
national contribution of paddy was three percent previously, it had
increased to eight percent in 2014. Paddy production and paddy lands
under cultivation during both the 'Maha' and 'Yala' seasons had
progressively increased since 2009.
The extent of paddy land in the 'Maha' season that was 50,807 ha in
2009 increased to 60,783 ha in 2013. In 2020 this is targeted to
increase to 61,320 ha paddy land. The targeted production is 12,57,544
mt of paddy in the Maha season and 1,34,000 mt of paddy in the Yala
The fisheries sector has also seen much progress with access roads
constructed to all coastal areas with enhanced facilities for them to
market their harvests.
The contribution of the fisheries sector to the national economy that
was previously three percent has now increased to nine percent. During
the LTTE terror there were regions known as 'uncleared areas' and
'cleared areas' , the former remaining neglected in the development
process. This situation has completed changed after 2009 with all areas
being brought under the development programs. Poverty has been
considerably reduced under the 'Samurdhi Poverty Alleviation Program'
and the 'Divi Neguma' program.
The education sector has recorded marked improvements, with all 310
schools already rehabilitated/re-constructed, 14 vocational centres
established and 115 schools are presently on improvement programs.
IT education programs have been introduced to 45 rural schools in the
district and 22 schools have been brought under the 'Mahindodaya Schools
Program'. The Eastern University now has almost all faculties and
students belonging to all three communities are studying in it.
Health services to the people under the health sector are fully
functional with the attendance of medical specialists, physicians, para
medics, nurses and other medical staff in all hospitals - one teaching
hospital, four base hospitals, two district hospitals, 15 divisional
hospitals, 14 primary health-care units,one chest clinic and one
psychiatric rehabilitation centre.
All hospitals get upgraded from time to time. Doctors belonging to
all the three communities are now able to render their uninterrupted
services to the people, unlike previously.
The Eastern province is a much sought after tourist destination and
in Paseekudah alone there are 12 tourist hotels with 12,000 rooms. A
good number of local youth have got employment opportunities with
attractive remunerations. The Government has provided employment to all
graduates as management assistants or as teachers. IT education in
several trades is being provided to those who do not pass either the
GCE(OL) or GCE(AL) so that they can be gainfully employed.
There is investor confidence and many local and foreign businessmen
and companies are now investing on businesses and industries.
Q: You have associated with many Tamil leaders and prominent
members of the Tamil diaspora. Sections of them have always been
critical of the government and have taken recourse to anti-government
propaganda in the countries of their domicile. Do you believe that this
scenario will change for the better in the context of the vast
development activities that are taking place in the North and East?
A: The government has implemented development programs in the
North and East without any racial discriminations contributing to the
socio-economic welfare of the people. But some people find reasons,
correct or not, to criticise the government. Some of the members of the
diaspora community who visited their villages or former places of
residence have appreciated the development works and the peaceful
atmosphere in which people live. They are happy about the present
situation. Within the TNA also there are some pro-LTTE elements or
radicals who create problems. They too should appreciate that the
President has restored democracy, peace and a better standard of living.
They should contribute productively instead of taking recourse to
confrontational politics and finding reasons to criticise the
government. They should work towards resolving problems amicably because
as the saying goes 'There is way if there is a will'. The Government
wants peaceful coexistence of all three communities in the country. In
fact the President had invited representatives of the diaspora community
to come for discussions on several important issues.
Q: You were instrumental in bringing the then LTTE renegade
and present Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthy Muraleedaran
alias Karuna Amman into the government fold and you had occasions to
meet with the LTTE hierarchy during a very tense period. Can you please
explain the background and the reasons that made the CFA to fail and
peace talks to stalemate?
A: I contested the parliamentary elections on a national
party, the UNP, and won at a time when regionalism was at the peak and
communal-based political parties were at the helm,. This would have been
impossible for anybody else.
I was elected by the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils because I was
promoting unity and communal harmony. I talked to leaders of all
communities and also LTTE leaders in an effort to bridging the
differences, reaching a negotiated settlement and restoring peace in the
Although the CFA between the Government and the LTTE was reached in
February 2002, I think that it was the President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga and Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe who contributed
to its failure. Ranil Wickramasinghe whose party was defeated in the
elections said that he had no interest in the CFA because he was no
longer the Premier..
The LTTE hierarchy asked me to take Karuna Amman away because of
their internal regional-based differences on conditions that he gets an
LTTE political leader Thamil Selvan also told me that if Karuna Amman
can be taken they could continue the peace talks.
I had to take Karuna Amman away in spite of all risks involved
because, otherwise, the Karuna Amman faction and the Prabhakaran faction
would have been at each others' throat and there would have been a major
I hold Ranil responsible for the deadlock in peace talks. When I
brought Karuna Amman, I had to leave the country.
After serving in the Sri Lankan embassy in US, I came back and at
present I am the Chairman of the Eravur UC. The President is sincerely
committed towards developing the East and he is providing everything
that we ask for towards development.