‘From Conflict to Stability’:
The true story about the Northern Province
Demining was completed last August
It is no understatement that Sri Lanka has been subject to
international condemnation from all corners for its decision to
militarily defeat the LTTE terrorists as well as its program of
resettlement of Tamil civilians, rehabilitation and reintegration of
former LTTE combatants and the spree of infrastructure development in
the North and the East.
Browsing through the 293-page Report of the Presidential Task Force
for Resettlement, Development and Security - Northern Province
(2009-2012), the colourful pages of change certainly make readers to
debate as to the authenticity of the tarnishing campaign spearheaded by
foreign-based LTTE supporters.
These Tamil civilians do not look as though they are been subject to
any type of harassment as is being publicised.
When millions remain as IDPs and refugees in all the countries where
invasions have taken place, no sooner the LTTE was defeated, calls came
from far and beyond demanding that the civilians be resettled. Did they
purposely ignore that the areas of the North were mined? Demining was
one of the major challenges which was completed in August 2012.
Menik Farm where the displaced persons were kept temporarily was
internationally publicised as an “internment” camp, giving it the
flavour of Hitler’s Germany where none came out alive, unlike the Tamil
civilians who have all been resettled in areas where they can carry out
normal living as well as close to a place of livelihood, schools and
other such amenities. What they seek is certainly not the wishlists that
people overseas demand of the Government to deliver.
Menik Farm was made out to be such a horrific place, but little did
anyone know it was just 40 minutes from Vavuniya. What is important to
note and which the report clearly reveals is that the planning of
accommodating the displaced was done far ahead of the actual final
battle. Therefore, the Government was prepared to take care of its own
people and given that Sri Lanka was a Third World country, that was a
Of course, nothing is without shortcomings, but the overall action is
what needs to be lauded and not minor deficiencies because let it not be
forgotten that Sri Lanka was the only country to defeat a terrorist
organisation and as such, the only country to have also taken on the
challenge of actually forming an indigenous program which has done
remarkably well, given the limitations which Third World nations suffer
from. Therefore, Sri Lanka needs to be evaluated not on the benchmarks
relevant to the developed West.
All those making demands of the Government forgot to take note of the
fact that for three decades, the region was under a militant rule which
had done pittance to provide for infrastructure or enhance the living
conditions of the very people it claimed to protect. The 180-day action
program was designed to quickly address the basic infrastructure needs
with $3.2 billion at its disposal to take care of the water, sewerage,
electricity, health and education sector with 900 schools now
functioning with over 260,000 students and close to 14,000 teachers.
Three hundred thousand people have so far benefited from the water
supply in the Jaffna peninsula. Water supply and sanitation alone have
cost $164 million.
The 294 Hindu temples in all five districts have been provided
Rs.41.8 million in financial assistance from 2008-2009. The Madhu Church
was renovated at a cost of Rs 27.4 million. Many Hindu temples have been
renovated by Government troops themselves.
Accusations that resettled civilians have had a bad deal are
nullified by looking at the resettlement package: six months’ of dry
rations, a total shelter grant of Rs.25,000 per family, 40- perch land,
non-food relief items that include mosquito nets, kitchen sets, towels,
plastic mats, bedsheets, hygiene packs, tool kits including hurricane
lamps, seed paddy (two bushels per acre per family for two acres), 12
roofing sheets per family and eight cement bags per family.
For people who were given nothing by the LTTE, not even food during
the last stages of the battle, their appreciation shrouds that of those
who throw stones from afar.
The welfare centres were only an interim arrangement, however, care
was taken to ensure that the basic needs were met. Water and sanitation
were key issues and the heavy rains did not help either.
Food and nutrition, healthcare centres, referral- hospitals,
post-traumatic stress disorder support, psycho-social work and
recreation, reunification of displaced with people their families,
opening banks inside relief centres so that the displaced could place
their money and jewellery, vocational training and preparation for
self-employment, religious, spiritual cultural activities and providing
of national ID cards, birth and death certificates were just some of the
initiatives taken by the Task Force and nothing of the nature that takes
place in the “internment” camps being publicised by people who have not
set foot in the relief centres to observe the lengths to which officials
There was also the question of how to deal with ex-combatants; 11,664
in total with 4,167 married, 7,375 single and 122 widowed and 594
children (above 12 and under 18 years of age). The Government took a
magnanimous decision to pardon the 594 children, internationally
declaring that none would be charged, taking the stand that these
combatants were viewed more as victims than perpetrators. Many of these
children have sat for O/L and A/L examinations, some going on to
university while others have found laudable ways to recommence their
lives as citizens of Sri Lanka.
Today, continuing with the Uthuru Wasanthaya program, Tamil families
are engaged in all types of livelihood from dairy farming, goat farming,
backyard poultry, fisheries and self-employment. The districts of
Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Mannar have all seen tremendous
economic and social development and earmarked to have 1,000 houses.
During a drive to the areas of the North, a scene that cannot escape
anyone’s attention is the booming agricultural sector - paddy
cultivation, gram, chillies, gingelly, red onions, kurakkan, maize,
cowpea, dragon fruit and a variety of other fruits, palmyrah, coconut
and cashew are just some of the activities farmers are involved in.
The length of the Northern coastline is 480km (30 percent of the
coastline of Sri Lanka) and coastal habitats include lagoons, estuaries,
mangroves, sea grass beds, salt marshes, coral reefs and sandy beaches.
The North also has 54 major and medium tanks and 1,500 minor tanks.
Under the Divi Neguma program for the fisheries sector, a host of
projects are on the pipeline.
Over 20 banks and over 10 financial services companies function in
the Northern Province, catering to all needs of the public. The road
network of the North has undergone tremendous improvement from the poor
condition it was in.
The train service was one of the most important services prior to
LTTE terror. Lawyers boarded the Colombo train, bound for the North,
from their car and used their own cars to finish their duties and return
home by train. The LTTE has ruined what was once a key mode of logistics
both for the poor and rich.
Numerous UN agencies and NGOs also partnered in the program and their
contribution needs to also be noted and mentioned especially in the
sphere of demining.
The 293 - page report compiled by the Presidential Task Force for
Resettlement, Development and Security is good for anyone to browse
through to find out details about the extent to which planning went to
reach out to the five districts that for three decades had functioned
out of the scope of the Government of Sri Lanka and those criticising
need to first take note of this fact.
These areas were underdeveloped, not because they were neglected by
successful governments, but because the LTTE was ruling these areas. The
people of these areas were still living in the 1980s in terms of needs
and comforts because apart from main Jaffna all other areas were under
the total control of the LTTE.
Infrastructure development was at a standstill for three decades
because the LTTE preferred to use US$300 million profits for its own use
rather than make a road, school, hospital or house for the Tamil
The people, local and overseas, need to be aware of this fact, even
those that continue to chant of discrimination cannot hide the changes
visibly seen as compared to the barren and depleted conditions in which
the Tamil people lived - most of whom were unable to leave for fear of
being killed by the LTTE.
Whatever the critics say - Sri Lanka remains the only nation to have
eliminated one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist organisations, to
have simultaneously carried out a humanitarian rescue operation and
while feeding, providing shelter and even taking care of the social and
cultural needs of the displaced plan out a resettlement and
reintegration program within three years that deserves bouquets rather