Posted on December 30th, 2019


Revised 15.1.20

One way of erasing the Eelam victory was for the state to take the blame for the all the destruction caused, and promise to rebuild. After winning the Eelam War IV President Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Kilinochchi, spoke in Tamil and told the people there that his government will rebuild all that was destroyed, and will strive to provide everything they need.  

The media reported in 2013 that the government had set aside the colossal sum of USD 1350 million for infrastructure development in Northern Province, railways and electricity, highways, bridges, water supply and sanitation.     85% of the foreign   loans are spent on developing the north, said Basil Rajapaksa.

The main emphasis was on roads and bridges. The government has spent 10 billion on development of infrastructure in north to replace the damage done by the LTTE, reported the media in 2013.  In Vavuniya all disconnected damaged and dilapidated highway and roads including rural road have been renovated and rehabilitated.

11 large bridges were completed. The A 9 highway, Batticaloa Trincomalee highway, Vavuniya Horowopotana and Medawachchiya Mannar roads were improved. A bridge connecting Sangupiddy in Kilinochchi  to Karaitivu in Jaffna District was built. Before this bridge the only land route to Jaffna was on A9 via Elephant Pass causeway. The bridge is part of the A32 Jaffna-Mannar highway.

Damaged railways were restored. 29 public and private institutions such as Bank of Ceylon, NYSC, IDB, SLECC Kelani cables and Singer Sri Lanka were asked to help reconstruct the northern railway stations. Each took a railway station. 

Once the war was over Kilinochchi was developed.   The media announced in 2013 that over 8 million has been allocated to Kilinochchi. This allocation was described as a ‘staggering allocation, unprecedented at district level.’ Kilinochchi roads were improved.  Nearly 15,000 wells were cleaned or renovated.  A substantial sum of money was spent on restoring the health services that had been paralyzed. Major hospitals were renovated and provided with additional facilities.  Tellippalai base hospital was renovated to the cost of Rs 10 million.

The government said that 26,730 new houses were planned  for Kilinochchi. The government will provide 18,699 of them.  Also, the government would repair 4119 of the 6349 houses that need to be repaired.  The balance will be done later. 

The foreign aid provided for Sri Lanka during the Eelam war    was primarily, if not exclusively, for the north and east. This is well known. This continued after the war was won. The ambassador for France visited Mannar and Jaffna and spoke to Tamils and Muslims. He said France was interested in the resettlement of Tamils and Muslims.

 Australia provided the funds to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to restore critical fishing infrastructure in the Jaffna peninsula. The reconstructed anchorage will allow full access to the sea at any time.  Japan offered to provide Rs 90 million for a project for livelihood assistance for those returning to their homes in north and east. 

Rotary International   carried out several projects in the north and east. Rotary helped improve Trincomalee general hospital,   and Eravur base hospital. Rotary had given wells to Seenanvali and Santhosapuram in Muttur,  toilets for a Girls Home and Boys Home in Batticaloa,    a  computer centre to technical college Vavuniya,   and conducted  preschool teacher training  in Jaffna and  Batticaloa . 

Then in 2015, the government changed and the Yahapalana government came in. The regime change of 2015 was largely due to the Tamil vote in the North. President Sirisena    won around 80% of the north and east votes, though a survey showed that 33% of the people of that area had not even heard of Sirisena before. Yahapalana won on the block vote of Tamil and Muslim minorities.  They must be rewarded. Therefore Yahapalana government gave special attention to the Tamils   of the North. 

 I have gone to Jaffna 11 times in 22 months as President.  About 90% of the Tamils in Jaffna voted for me. We are building houses for them and giving them back their land,” said President Maitripala Sirisena in 2016.  The war has destroyed the economy. So it will be a longer period but we have given special concessions for investment in the North.

The government plans to develop about 15,000 km of road in the north and east and of which 700 km will be for Jaffna district said Lakshman Kiriella in 2016. ‘He thanked the people of the north for voting for them.’ 3000 rainwater harvesting tanks for Jaffna district were approved at cost of Rs 300 million in 2016.

Many statements were made in 2017 regarding the planned help for the north and east. Vision 2025 said the Government will implement a comprehensive District Development Plan for each of the five districts in the Northern Province. National Integration and Reconciliation Ministry   said it has initiated several reconciliation-focused economic empowerment and social infrastructure projects in the North and East at a cost of Rs. 679 million. The projects include development of anchorages, roads, water supply, irrigation, education improvements and health and livelihood projects.

In 2017 Samurdhi came to north east which did not have it before. 68 primary health care facilities including OPD, MOH offices, were set up in Jaffna Kilinochchi Vavuniya Mannar and Mullativu.    Karainagar is going to get a new     fishing boat yard costing 285 million, reported the media. In 2017, Urani village in Tellippalai, Jaffna, which was under the custody of Sri Lanka forces, was released and   Yahapalana initiated a ‘land mark project’ to construct anchorages and landing sites for the fishing community. Rs. 4.6 million was released for the purpose.

A string of projects were announced in January 2017.  In the Jaffna district, the projects initiated included establishment of an economic centre in Chavakachcheri at a cost of Rs. 100 million, palmyrah-based food processing centre in Delft at a cost of Rs. 20 million, reconstruction of Araly North Murukamoorththy Temple Road at a cost of Rs. 5.2 million, development of anchorages in Palaly North, Polikandy East, Arali Centre and Urany amounting to Rs. 288 million, a two-storey building at Karaveddy Vatharaniyeswara School at a cost of Rs. 16 million, cultivation of grapes at an investment of Rs. 7.5 million, net mending hall at Paasaiyoor at a cost of Rs. 6 million, fisheries livelihood support at a cost of Rs. 10.5 million, renovation of passenger jetty at Nainatheevu for Rs. 30 million, and construction of two-storey Ward Block at Divisional Hospital, Karaveddy, at a cost of Rs 25 million. In Kilinochchi District, a Rs. 20 million project has been initiated for a palmyrah-based food processing centre.

In Mannar District, 19 million has been allocated for crab cultivation at the Fishing Centre in Manthai West, construction of beach roads, and supply of non-mechanised fishing craft to fishermen. In Mullaitivu District, water tanks and water supply has been initiated at a cost of Rs. 35.6 million in Vadakkadu, Manthai East, Nanthakumaran Nagar, Thunukkai, Kichchirapuram, Maratimepattu, Neeravipitty-Selvapuram, Othiyamala-Oddusuddan and Issurupura, Pandulupura, and Sangabopura in Weli Oya. In Vavuniya District, maintenance work on the Maravankulam Road for Rs. 24 million and reconstruction of irrigation tanks in Sengal Padaikkulam, Karukkaikulam, Mathiyamadu and Sinnapoovarasankulam and other support infrastructure such as medical equipment for RDHS for Rs. 24 million, construction of science lab in Matharpankarmakilarkulam GTMS and other related projects have been undertaken.

The Cabinet of Ministers granted approval, in 2017, for the rehabilitation and upgrading of 66 roads in the conflict affected Northern and Eastern Provinces  Rs. 81 million for the construction of the Kilali ­– Eluthumadduwal road and Rs. 8.5 million to develop Urudippuram Fourth Cross Street.” Under this project in the Jaffna District roads such as Valukkaiyaru Punguduththivu – Kurikadduwan Road, Jaffna Manipai- Karainagar Road and Punnalai – Point Pedro Road, Eluthumadduwal – Nagarkovil Road including many Road Development Authority (RDA), (Road Development Department) RDD and rural roads, Nainathivu and Kurikadduwan Jetties are to be rehabilitated.

In the Kilinochchi District roads such as Murikandi Kanagapuram Paranthan Road and in the Mullaitivu District the bridge across Kokkilai lagoon, Vadduvaikal bridge, and Vattapalai main road and in the Mannar District, Mahilankulam Pallamadhu Road, Peramanalankulam Road, and Periyapandivirichan Road – Mullikulam Road and in the Batticaloa Kiran bridge, Santhiveli Thikiliveddai bridge and Marine Drive Batticaloa – Kalkuda Road will be rehabilitated and upgraded.

The 2018 Budget allocated Rs. 1000 million to be spent in the North. In 2018, President laid the foundation for the Mailaddy fisheries harbour, which will be renovated at a cost of Rs 400 million aiming to streamline the fishing activities in the Jaffna area especially in the Kankesanthurai area.

A  Presidential Task Force on Northern and Eastern Province Development was established in August 2018.  This was a high-level 48-member task force chaired by the President,  to direct, coordinate and monitor development activities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The task force members include Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, 15 Cabinet ministers, the Governors of the two provinces, the Chief Ministers of the two provinces, secretaries to several ministries and Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

In 2019 cabinet approval was granted for a 5-year project to resolve the water shortage problem in the Jaffna Peninsula. The project submitted by the Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry,  ‘A river for Jaffna’, has been designed to be completed within five years and is estimated to cost Rs. 3,609 million. As there are no rivers in the Jaffna Peninsula, the project, in order to resolve the chronic water shortage, aims at reducing the salinity of the well water bordering the Vadamaarachchi lagoon, increasing the water supply for agriculture purposes by 8 million cubic meters and, increasing the fresh water supply for household purposes and consumption. The project will be implemented in two stages within a period of five years.

In 2019 Yahapalana stated that about Rs. 50 billion has been spent  in that year for the development of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Rs. 7 billion has been spent under the Gamperaliya programme. Another Rs. 24 million has been spent on reviving the palmyrah industry, including bottling of toddy, jaggery production and sweet sap production, Yahapalana   had also allocated Rs. 32.5 million for rural infrastructure development projects,.”

The Palmyrah Fund was launched  in 2019  by Yahapalana to accelerate development in the North and East, with an investment of Rs.2.5 billion administered by the Treasury, The Fund will be established soon through an Act of Parliament, said Yahapalana at the time. Once the Fund is formally established by the government though an Act of Parliament, thousands and thousands of people from the Diaspora all over the world can contribute,  said Yahapalana . Our government is committed to restoring normalcy to the lives of war affected persons and making them active partners in Sri Lanka’s development drive, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe ” .

A committee was appointed in 2018 to  prepare a Master Plan for an Economic Development Framework for the North . Its report was issued in 2019.Here are selected comments from this report:

In the ten years since fighting ended, employment creation has also not met demand while the Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts record the nation’s lowest monthly incomes.  Indebtedness has soared. There is an increase in suicides and attempted suicides. Child nutrition levels have plunged said the report.

A fifty percent increase of departures for foreign employment from the province was reported from 2011 to 2016, with a peak annual figure of 12,642 in 2014, in Jaffna, where much of the Northern Province’s people lived.

The reconstruction strategy lacked direction, was not holistic, was insufficiently coordinated and carried out with a project-based mind-set, continued the report .  The Government’s post-war reconstruction strategy had hitherto focused on building infrastructure such as road, expanding lending to promote self-employment and encouraging private-sector investment. But expectations were not met. One reason for this was that such initiatives did not enhance productivity of small-sized producers and organizations. Existing skills and capacity were not built upon, continued the report.  

Any new development model should put monies into existing and new small-scale producers and industries to improve productivity, the report recommends. It must be labour-intensive to get as many people into safe, secure and regular work as possible. It must make extensive use of land and natural resources and be agriculturally-led” said the report.

The committee particularly calls for investment in agriculture to achieve household resilience and food security. It must also support medium-term efforts for those able to take greater risks and move into higher value markets, including exports, and it should be dispersed fairly across the Northern Province and among different population groups to ensure that regional and gender disparities are reduced.

 It calls for a focus on development of small industries that use local resources, including agro-based processing for value addition, crafts, light manufacturing and renewable energy. It espouses a services sector that meets local needs in areas such as financial services, public transport, care and water and sanitation. The North is dominated by small-sized economic actors. They include smallholder farmers, small-scale fishers and small industries, businesses and co-operatives. When they were suddenly re-integrated with the market in the rest of the country, most of these uncompetitive producers lost out, stated the report.

Aid actors tried to jump start production by introducing sophisticated technology in selected industries or promoting the establishment of new businesses. These were largely unsuccessful because of a lack of understanding of the existing institutional capacity and skills within the region, said the report.

.A stark example of this, the committee points out, is seen in the resurrection of Atchchuvely Industrial Estate–costing Rs 210 million in 2013–with the hope of attracting 16 medium-scale industries. As of July 2018, only a few industries are present, of which most are only partially operational. 

Sri Lanka’s war-torn north has only 23 Board of Investment (BOI) companies, just one of which is funded by the Diaspora, the lowest number of industrial enterprises in the country and an industrial sector growing far slower than the national average, the report said. ( Continued)

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