Systematic Development of the North and East Only way to avoid a repetition of the conflict
Posted on July 18th, 2010

 By Ian

I had an opportunity to visit Jaffna recently. Having spoken to few of the residents and seeing their living conditions etc, I was pleased to hear that a session of the cabinet was going to be held in Killinochchi. However I felt let down when I read about the decisions reached in the session. I am sure that reduction of fuel prices will do much good for areas that depend on kerosene for lighting and motor cycles and public buses for transport. But is that enough?

 In my view much larger vision is required if we are to avoid a repetition of what happened in the last 30 years. We have to eliminate the possibility of extremists recruiting members for their cadres using frustrations in the youth. Most of the frustrations come due to lack of higher educational opportunities and the lack of opportunities for employment. Also considering the plight of the children and families in the last 30 years we have to do much more than celebrating the defeat of terrorism and enjoying the freedom in Colombo. I invite attention of all concerned to look in to the bigger picture and make decisions that will bring sustainable and longer term benefits to that part of the country and thereby to the whole country.

 Following are some of the things that the cabinet of ministers can consider doing in the northern and eastern parts of the country.  

 Creation of employment opportunities – 1
Investment incentives

 This is an area that did not have any investments for 30 years. It is fair to designate it as a special economic zone. With majority of the infrastructure is yet to be in place it may be prudent to provide generous tax incentives (5-15 year tax holidays) to companies and individuals that will invest there and employ substantial number of people. The incentives should be on number of positions created rather than on the amount invested. State should also consider lowering the cost of investments. The state banks can give the lead of giving concessionary credit facilities (2-3% less than lending rates for other areas) for investments in the area. Naturally private sector banks will follow this.

 Creation of employment opportunities – 2
Temporary suspension of the applicability of Termination of Employment Act of 1971

 The government should consider a temporary suspension of the applicability of the above act for new positions created in the northern and eastern provinces for some period of time. This can also be done in few other provinces in which employment creation is low. This will have the advantage of industries investing or moving to these provinces as they can hire and fire staff. Naturally the industrialists and investors will hire people without having to bother about the costs of reduction in case of lower productivity, lower output than expected or in case of an industrial unrest. For the employees they will have to work hard to safeguard their jobs. The resultant creation of jobs will be substantial.

Creation of employment opportunities – 3
Establishing training schools

 The state should encourage the state owned (such as NIBM, SLIIT, German Tech) and the private sector to establish training facilities such as IT schools, hotel schools, nursing schools, agriculture schools, banking academies, Motor Mechanism training schools, sports academies, craft schools etc. in the two provinces so that the students that do not get in to universities can get trained in other areas of the economic activity. This will produce large number of trained people to cater to the investments that come in to the region and also provide self employment avenues. 

 Linking the markets
Agriculture sector

 There are vast amounts of land that are now being cultivated and also suitable for cultivation. However the demand for produce may be lower due to the limited number of people and buying power. State or a private sector company investing in the cold chain will have numerous benefits. Major portion of the vegetable and fruits produced in the country go waste due to not availability of a proper cold chain in the country. This will be felt most in the northern and eastern sectors of the country due to the distance to Colombo and the south. If an effective cold chain is established the farmers will be able to sell the produce at a reasonable price. The waste of produce can be minimized and hence costs reduced. The other parts of the country could get the produce at a reasonable price.

Irrigation sector

I am certain that the irrigation department and Mahaweli Authority have many plans to provide water to the areas that do not have access to regular water supply for agriculture. These schemes should be expedited either using locally generated cash such as development bonds or using external support. While providing employment opportunities in the constructions stage these schemes will provide livelihood to many and increase the food production in the country significantly.

Development of health and education infrastructure

Fast and large scale development of health and educational infrastructure will benefit many who have lived in most difficult circumstances for several decades. While the two ministries will continue to do their part at their own low pace, the state can use state and private sector banks/companies to sponsor a school or a hospital and develop its infrastructure facilities using their CSR budgets and managerial skills to have faster results. For example If a private sector company undertakes to sponsor a school, they could donate extra computers and furniture, repair and repaint the existing buildings and furniture, help in building additional class rooms, employ to their pay roll and provide additional teachers, provide sports equipment, sponsor educational tours, provide books to the library, provide nutritional supplements to the children and do many things that will provide them immense satisfaction. This will naturally provide more pleasant and well equipped facilities to the students in the area to pursue their dreams.

Development of urban housing

Like the state did in the 1970’s in Colombo, ministry of housing should construct multi floor buildings similar to the Anderson Flats and Bambalapitiya flats to provide housing to many that still live in cadjan huts in the Jaffna city. This will solve the basic need of many people who will not be able to afford land or building a decent house. Building flats is a simpler solution than providing clean water and sanitary facilities large number of small and temporary houses scattered all over the city area. The areas that can be claimed by cleaning the shanties can then be used for recreational parks and other common purposes.

Respecting the language, culture and religion

Although this is not an area on development, I like to comment on an experience I had in Jaffna. Whatever development and reconciliation work we do will be a waste if there is another bout of terrorism in whatever scale. Therefore we need to consider the soft side too to ensure that results of our efforts in peace building and development are going to be long lasting. Our armies defeated the terrorism, and both Sinhalese and Tamil civilians are the victors. It is up to us to make them feel as victors. We need to go extra mile and make their lives comfortable and make them see a bright future as equal citizens in a united country.   I saw a large board at a navy check point in Jaffna that said ‘Thank you please come again’ in Sinhalese. There was no Tamil translation. Majority of the people who pass this check point speak Tamil. If I see such a board in Colombo in another language I will naturally get offended. While the presence of large number of security personnel is required in the northern and eastern provinces we still have to respect their language and the culture. It is better if all the name boards in roads, railway stations, army camps, government offices etc. are redone with first line to be in Tamil, and the Sinhalese and English translations later.  

 The writer is willing to provide more detailed versions of subjects discussed in the column without any profit, positions, perks or recognition. If any decision maker wants to discuss any issues in detail please contact the writer on lankan.ian@gmail.com.

6 Responses to “Systematic Development of the North and East Only way to avoid a repetition of the conflict”

  1. Chintha Says:

    Ian is right . This will do two things. Satisfy the Tamils who are prone to end up as terrorists and also make it more inviting and livable place for the non Tamils , creating ethnic integration like in South. These develpoment should accompany with strict laws against ethnic cleansing and laws that make ethnic integration compulsory. By the way terrorists and terrorist funders are dead against Developping the North. Ian cannot be anything to do with terrorists.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    The whole of the North and East and other neglected areas of Sri Lanka should be given equal priority. Jaffna peninsula is by no means an underdeveloped area compared to many other much neglected areas in the island. The Tamil civil servants during British times and later saw to it that much of funding went there. If there is destruction and neglect it is their handiwork during the reign of their Sun God.

    The problems of the Kandyan peasantry deprived of their lands under the infamous Wasteland Ordinance of the British Imperialists need to be addressed. Tamil so called grievances turned to aspirations later because their was nothing special about their grievances which were different from those of other neglected areas of the island.

    The majority Sinhalese loose out simply because they fail to air out their problems and grievances and there is hardly anybody to voice their concerns and fight for their rights. They are simply taken for granted and left to suffer in silence.

  3. Kamal Says:

    Tamil! Tamil!! Tamil !!!

    Please remember they are Sri Lankans.
    We are all poor, 85 % of our GDP is going into servicing debts, Mostly because of your sacred prodigal sons LTTE fighting for the last three decades.
    They don’t’ deserve more than the others. We are willing to share but they are not. They got most of the aid for the last 30 yrs, UN USAID NORWAY and so on, They miss-used it. Now all you do-gooders want to build them up again at the expense of the rest.
    Why? Why? Why?
    The balance 15% has to be shared, the rest of the country is as bad or worse.Please save your advice and do not waste other’s time as well.
    Please let us develop the country altogether or else we will all sink.
    Kamal

  4. Ramanie Says:

    Very true Kamal and PrabasFlaccidhead,

    In all these ‘calls to develop’ North and East there are some strange arguments put up to reward terrorism and facism. One strange view is that SL must build condos, start industries, provide employment blah blah blah and replace Sinhalese on billboards with Tamil ‘so that we don’t have another 30 years of terrorism’! We must develop the North, East, West, South and the Centre – not because we are worried that Tamils will take up guns again but because we want to develop our country for our people. To stop the Tamils taking up guns there is only one solution- and I think SL have now got the formula- that is we will have top grade State intelligence and military might to maintain law and order all over the country. Why we had 30 years of terrorism is because we gave into Tamil terrorism and racism in the North and the East and peacefully withdrew from these provinces so that the rabid Tamil terrorists could rape and plunder the entire area without a contest. We must re-establish the ethnic mix that is the hallmark of the rest of the Provinces, in the North and East- then the belly aching about Sinhala billboards will stop. I am yet to see another country where every darn public bill board is translated into all minority languages. Jaffna traditionally had the best schools and universities in the country because of the British firstly and then the SL government continued that level of funding. The fact is that the Tamils failed to use all these facilities and further improve the areas because of their narrow minded racist ‘Tamil only’ mentality. The irony is that the ‘war’ started when Senanayake govt started the Mahaveli development project- the Tamil racist elite of the period then got alarmed that the development of the river valley will bring in more Sinhalese into these provinces. The SLG must settle all landless families regardless of their ethnicity in these areas without any further delay. Another fountain of racism and terrorism is the Jaffna university. This must be ethnically mixed and the entire top hierarchy must be transferred out or sacked and jailed if proven to have terrorist links. This is the bosom of the Tamil racist separatist theocracy- Jaffna university must be brought into the 21st centuary kicking and screaming! The students, staff and the executive management must reflect the SL society- multicultural. The more we put up with rabid ‘Tamil heartland’ nonsense the longer we deny the really deserving poor people of the country of the resources of the land of their birth!

  5. Leela Says:

    I do not deny for a moment that Jaffna should be assisted for it is a part of Sri Lanka as well. I think the infrastructure must be developed by the government as fast as they can. In order to attract industries, special programs that are there for Hambantota may be offered to Jaffna as well. Same goes for industrial estates. For the last few years, the government has given incentives to move industries away from Colombo to underdeveloped districts. Jaffna may qualify to attract industries that are being relocated under that scheme.

    For thirty years Jaffna people chose to put development aside. They patiently awaited for Piripaharan’s enterprise to succeed. Why this undue hurry now. Hang on. There are few things that must be done first: Defence must be in place with permanent camps to keep any rouges out. Then the law and order institutions must be in place. Then the shackles of prejudice laws such as ‘Tesawalame’ should be removed to encourage investment.

    In the south, if a borrower default a bank, the collateral (property) would be advertised for auction country wide, and Jaffna man can bid it and buy it as well. At such an auction in Jaffna, we in the south are forbidden to buy the property concerned. That makes the number of bidders less at auctions in Jaffna and the price low. Tamils keep mum about these. As PrabasFlaccidHead says, everyone must be treated equal.

    I am sure Ian understand that there are poorer districts in Sri Lanka than Jaffna. And, Estate Tamils are much poorer than Jaffna Tamils. If a community need assistance, I say; it is they that should be assisted first. For the fear of Jaffna youth might sway towards terrorism again is no reason to serve poorer districts and communities with step motherly treatments.

  6. Ian Says:

    Thank you all for your comments. Having written few articles here this is the first time i got this many responses. My intentions are only to ensure that Sri Lanka remains in tact not only today but for many centuries to come and to see this country develops so that lower segments of the society has the same opportunities as the others.

    Shooting the messenger does not kill the message. If time permits please read my previous articles that are kindly listed under ‘By Ian’ catogory, by the editor Lankaweb. That MAY help to conclude whether I am a ‘terrorist’ or not.

    Thank you again for responses.

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