OVERVIEW OF DEVELOPMENT AND RESETTLEMENT ISSUES OF THE NORTH AND THE EAST
Posted on October 26th, 2009

Speaker: Lt. Col (Retd). Anil Amarasekara

(Presentation given at the Annual sessions of the Organization of Professional Associations on Saturday the 10th of October 2009)

My topic today is development and resettlement issues in the North and the East. When I take development and resettlement I should actually divide these into separate areas. Let me first consider the Eastern Province, then the Northern Province, and finally even the North Central Province, because there is a lot of development and resettlement that has to take place there. In the Eastern Province, where military operations have been completed, we have moved from Mavilaru to Thoppigala, then to Poonani, Vakarai, Sampur, Mutur, all that area has been completely taken under government control, and a lot of resettlement has been done and I would be happy to tell you at this moment that resettlement has already been completed in all those areas.

 Then we come on to the next area where the LTTE itself has ethnically cleansed certain areas in the East. In those areas development and resettlement has not taken place. I am taking as an example, Gomarankadawala Divisional Secretariat area where there had been about 23 villages that had been moved out of that area due to LTTE pressure. From Kiulekadawala up to Nikawewa, and then on to Thiriyaya, that whole area the villagers have moved out. It is important that we get those villages reestablished. We also have the Padavisripura area, where Urewa and Track 13, all those areas have to be resettled.

 In the Northern Province the clearing of mine fields is still in progress. However in the Vavuniya District in certain areas like Vavuniya Town itself and in the vicinity of Chettikulam there is a massive population of internally displaced people. The government has to ensure that they get back to their habitats. Then there are Sinhala villages in the Vavuniya district that were displaced. These are villages in the Vavuniya district such as Pirappammaduwa, Eropathana, Rankethgama and Paleuruwa.  All those villages have to be resettled. There are also many Muslim villages in the Vavuniya district that were displaced, which have to be resettled.

 Then with regard to Mannar District, the Government has already started its resettlement program and I think I saw it on TV the other day that many of the villages have been resettled. However there are other areas in the Northern Province where the military operations have not been completed.  These are districts such as Kilinochchi and Mulathivu. Even in certain areas of the Jaffna district resettlement and development cannot take place until such time the mine fields left behind by the LTTE are cleared.

 In the North Central Province in places like the Padaviya Divisional Secretariat area villages such as Kammiliyawa, Koonwewa and Weherawewa are Sinhala villages that have been abandoned. All these villages have to be resettled. In the Kebithigollewa Divisional Secretariat Area villages such as Yakawewa, Indigollewa and Walalabindunuwewa are another group of Sinhala villages have to be resettled. This is only an overview that I have presented.

 Let me draw your attention to a power point presentation that I prepared a few months ago on the topic that is under consideration. As pointed out by me in this power point presentation no resettlement and development in the North and the East can happen sans security. Therefore, security, perhaps, is the most important aspect when development and resettlement issues are taken into consideration.  There are two other aspects that need to be considered when development and resettlement issues are taken into consideration. One is that of winning the hearts and minds of people and the other which applies especially for the North and the East situated in the dry zone of our country is the provision of water.

 Let us first consider security.

 Defeating LTTE terrorism will be the first requirement in the provision of security. Though we have defeated the LTTE in conventional warfare, they could still revert to guerilla warfare. Therefore Civil Defense Force (CDF) in villages will have to be trained and strengthened to protect the resettled villages. Secondly the CDF should be motivated and trained to look after those villages. Thirdly, some villages situated in the strategic area may need a Forward Defense Line (FDL) for their protection in addition to the CDF. If such a FDL is required roads along this FDL will have to be well established to rush in reinforcements if required. Why do we talk in terms of an FDL? Because if you look at the map, you find from Omanthai to Welioya it’s virtually jungle. Now that the conventional war has ended, the LTTE may revert back to guerilla warfare, and if they do, they will move through this jungle area to attack the villages that are being resettled. So, unless there is a strong FDL, I think we are going to lose on the long run. Therefore, establishing an FDL in that area is very important and it is already been done for you information.

 Next we need to think of former LTTE members living in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps. They will have to be identified and rehabilitated by conducting vocational training programs to get them back to gainful employment. It is very important to identify the LTTE members who have surrendered and to rehabilitate them. The next point in security is the movement of outsiders, firstly to IDP camps and subsequently to the resettled villages. Such movement will have to be checked and monitored for a considerable length of time to prevent any terrorist influence from affecting firstly IDP camps and secondly resettled villages. We must not forget that NGOs with vested interest will move in and try to create problems. So, it is very important that we have a check on that.

 Sixth point, a good road network will have to be provided to resettled villages to enhance security and to move in reinforcements in the event of an attack. The next point, a good network of communication will have to be provided to these resettled villages for security forces and police to obtain information on suspicious activities if any. It is important to remember that good communication is one of the most essential requirements in any resettlement project of this nature.

 The next point is regarding the presence of well-equipped Army Divisional, Brigade and Battalion headquarters in strategic areas. This will be essential to provide good security and to augment the strength of the civil police if the need ever arises in the future. Then comes the ninth point the Army Divisional, Brigade and Battalion Headquarters should be provided with adequate, well-irrigated land for cultivation to make them self-sufficient in most of their daily requirements with regard to food. Objective is to make them become self-sufficient. Finally the civil police and the CDF must be entrusted with the day-to-day law and order maintenance and the Army should only be used for special operations such as to search and destroy guerilla groups that attack villages.

 The next important point that needs to be considered is winning hearts and minds. Mao Tse Tung said, “Terrorists are like fish and masses like the water. If you want to kill the fish, you have to remove the water. Fish cannot survive sans water. If you need to defeat the terrorists, you need to win over the masses, because terrorists cannot survive sans the masses.” Therefore, Army considers civil affairs to be no less important than military operations, and it is for this reason that the Civil Affairs Officer is appointed in all operational areas. No military campaign will be successful sans the correct civil affairs approach. It is therefore, imperative that the Army too concentrates on successful hearts and minds operations. What has to be done through hearts and minds operations is listed below. The list is by no means complete and one can add to this list many more points to win over hearts and minds of people.

 

  1. Villagers should not be harassed and must be spoken to with kindness by the security forces, police, and government officials.
  2. The problems of people must receive a patient hearing and wherever possible immediate action must be taken to find solutions to such problems.
  3. Poverty elevation programs must be commenced based on information received from bottom to top, and not the other way around.  Strategy cannot be evolved from an air conditioned office in Colombo. The information must be collected from grassroots level by living with the people and strategy must be evolved based on such information.
  4. Then resettled villages must be provided with good housing facilities with proper toilets. This is an important requirement if a resettlement project is to succeed.
  5.  The need to have good community centers to encourage community activities such as cultivation committees, rural development societies etc. must not also be overlooked.
  6. A good rural hospitals and village dispensaries need to be established with doctors and apothecaries to provide an efficient health service to the resettled villages.
  7. The establishment of good schools is another essential requirement. Both primary and secondary schools will have to be provided for resettled villages with adequate teachers to ensure a sound education for the children.
  8. It is also essential to make certain that there is no black marketing and that goods and commodities needed by the villagers on a daily basis are available for purchase in the village shops at reasonable prices.
  9. Since most of these resettled villages in the North and the East have an agricultural economy, all necessary steps must be taken to improve this village based agricultural economy.
  10. Self employment projects must be encouraged not only among the men, but also among women to improve the family income and to ensure rapid village development.
  11. Rural banking will have to be encouraged with good banking systems in the resettled villages.
  12. Religious places of worship that villagers use must be restored and the village society must be encouraged to follow their respective religions.
  13. Electricity from the national grid must be provided to all resettled villages as soon as possible to ensure rapid development.
  14. Provision of clean drinking water to improve the health and sanitary conditions in resettled villages is another very essential requirement.

 Let us next consider Water.

 The need of water for sustainable development was best understood by our ancient kings. It is for this reason that 30,000 tanks were built by them in the dry zone of this country. They understood that poverty was directly related to lack of water in the dry zone. One third of the water collected in “Wewas” or tanks evaporates. One third is used for agriculture and one third enriches the ground water table. The water stored in the ground water table can be utilized not only for drinking, washing and bathing purposes, but also for highland agriculture. The network of tanks in the dry zone during ancient times was used by our ancestors not only to tide over drought but also as a method of flood control. The ancient systems of tank irrigation had the major tanks, the storage tanks, and the village tanks. During drought when the village tanks run dry, water was released first from the storage tanks and then from the major tanks to tide over drought conditions. When there was excessive rain, during the rainy season and when tanks filled to maximum capacity, the spill gates were open in the major tanks and the storage tanks as a method of flood control, allowing the water to flow into rivers and then to the sea without causing damage to the village tanks and also the canal system.

 The self-sustained villages of Uva and Wellassa area during the period of the Kandyan Kingdom was a result of a well-established tank irrigation system that provided adequate water to cultivate very fertile land. It was the people living in these self-sustained villages that rose in rebellion against the British Raj in 1818, the method used by the British to crush the rebellion was to destroy the tank irrigation system in Uva and Wellassa.

 The development and resettlement of the North will be accelerated at an unbelievable pace if water is made available to the Northern Province and to the Jaffna Peninsula. To achieve this objective the underground limestone aquifer needs to be recharged in the Jaffna peninsula. The only way to achieve this objective is to implement the suggestion of a river for Jaffna.

 In the Jaffna peninsula the cultivators are doing intensive agriculture, and as a result they are drawing out a lot of water from the ground water table. When freshwater is drawn out, saltwater finds its way in to the ground water table and the salinity begins to increase. When the salinity becomes excessive cultivation becomes impossible. This has already happened in many parts of the Jaffna district.

 The idea of a river for Jaffna is to take the spill waters of Iranamaduwa tank, and allow it to flow into the lagoon in Elephant Pass. The fresh water that flows into the Elephant Pass lagoon will replace the saltwater and it will become a freshwater lagoon. Next overflow from the Elephant Pass lagoon can be taken to the other lagoons in the Jaffna peninsula as well. Once the lagoons in Jaffna are freshwater lakes, obviously the aquifers too will be saturated with freshwater. Then agriculture in the Jaffna District is going to be successful. If this were to happen, that is all that the Tamil people in Jaffna want really. Therefore if this can be achieved perhaps the biggest problem faced by the people of Jaffna can be solved.  

 The Army went into Vakarai on the 16th or 19th of January 2007 and by 31 of March 2007 in just three months they had resettled all internally displaced families in their respective villages. Twenty one thousand families were resettled. The government had the ability to do this. Therefore if this could have been achieved in the East, who will doubt the ability of the government to do the same in the North?  Please remember in the East we had 180,000 people who were displaced soon after the military campaign. In one year the government completed its resettlement program in the area where the military campaign was conducted. If the government could have achieved that, resettling 200,000 people displaced from the North is not going to be that much of a problem. The government I am certain can do it.

One Response to “OVERVIEW OF DEVELOPMENT AND RESETTLEMENT ISSUES OF THE NORTH AND THE EAST”

  1. Kit Athul Says:

    Excellent article if the power point PDF file was imbeded that would have made it even better. Tamils do this very well; see some articles on Tamilnet.com. I have few questions for the lecturer:
    1. What about Tamil Nadu Tamils who came as fighters even before Soldhiem Cease Fire? They could claim land in villages stating that they lived there and was borne there.
    2. In one of your previous execellent article, you stated that there was a Norwegian UN official writing deeds and allocating government land to Tamils who were in Ceylon Thearters camp and Dollar camp. This Norwegian left the country when late Lalith Athulathmudali, who was a minister at that time, stopped this practice. Later this Norwegian came back as the Norwegian ambassador when Ranil became the Prime Minister. Where are these Tamils living now?
    3. Remember, in a democracy there is no Tamil only or Muslim only NO GO areas. What if the Provincial Council of Northern province and Eastern province create theese NO GO areas?
    4. Remember, the Dutch had a law that no Sinhala can buy property in the Northern Province: who is going to safe guard the ability of a Sinhala businessman to go and buy properties inside a Tamil village, and do a business?
    5. Who is going to educate the Tamils how to use the election process and the ballot box? Who is going to check for Tamil Terrorist collectors and intimidaters in the villages?
    Hope fully you will address these issues in your next lecture.
    Kithsiri, Florida, USA

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