Only with defeat of LTTE development work gets rooted in NorthOctober 14, 2012, 10:16 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Having visited Jaffna and Kilinochchi on Friday (12) on a fact finding mission, External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris told The Island that that the government had been able to intensify the development process in the Jaffna peninsula only after the liberation of the Vanni region.
The military brought the entire Jaffna peninsula under government control in late May 1996. But the Vanni remained in the hands of the LTTE until May 2009.
The minister was speaking before he left over the weekend for the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Kuwait. The External Affairs Minister will be joined there by President Mahinda Rajapaksa today (15).
Prof. Peiris said that a major development effort in the peninsula was never realistic as long as the LTTE retained a conventional military capability. Asked whether the government was satisfied with the post-war development process, Prof. Peiris said that those critical of the current situation should compare it to what prevailed soon after the liberation of the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni in May 1996 and May 2009, respectively.
During Friday’s visit, Prof. Peiris received a briefing from Security Forces Commander, Jaffna, Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe as regards the projects implemented in the Jaffna peninsula.
As at Aug. 19, 2012, the Jaffna population comprised 631,393 civilians (193,541 families). According to the 1981 census 830,552 persons lived in the peninsula. A special enumeration in 2007 estimated the population at 559, 619. The current Jaffna population included 9.151 Muslims and 41 Sinhalese.
According to Maj. Gen. Hathurisinghe. since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the military had played a pivotal role in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation process. Commenting on the rehabilitation process, the Maj. Gen. said that at the end of the conflict the military identified 2,932 combatants from Jaffna among those held in detention. Under the patronage of the government, 2,751 LTTE cadres hailing from Jaffna had been released so far following rehabilitation consisting of vocational training as well as primary and secondary education. Less than 200 ex-combatants from the peninsula remained in captivity, though they, too, would be released in batches, the SLA said.
The government initiatives had received the backing of the international community and the private sector, Prof. Peiris told The Island.
The SLA said that humanitarian de-mining operations in the peninsula could be considered one of the most difficult tasks undertaken at the conclusion of the conflict. Some NGOs, too, had been engaged in mine clearing operations in the peninsula, Vanni as well as the East. Contrary to allegations, the military, since the end of war, had gradually released properties belonging to civilians, the SLA said. Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), construction of houses for the needy and reconstruction of roads and the restoration of the northern rail track had been priority projects, Security Forces headquarters, Jaffna said.
As at Sept 2012, the SLA estimated the area yet to be cleared of mines and various other unexploded explosive devices at 3.23 square km. De-mining units were now in the process of clearing 1.23 square km, the SLA said, adding that at the onset of the operation, engineering units estimated mine risk area at 44 square km.
The SLA emphasized that one of its biggest achievements was the completion of the resettlement process in the peninsula and the ten inhabited Jaffna Islands. The government recently completed the resettlement of the entire IDP community comprising 120, 475 persons in the Jaffna administrative district. In support of the resettlement project, the SLA launched a special programme to build 1,775 houses for the needy with the help of the community, the SLA said. The housing units had been constructed in areas controlled by 55, 51 and 52 Divisions, with the majority of them situated in the 55 Division area.
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