Supporting the entreprenuer culture must to develop East
People need vocational training for sustainable jobs:
Excerpts of the interview:
Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha - Secretary General, Secretariat for
Coordinating the Peace Process
How would you describe the present Eastern Province, exactly one year
after its liberation from the clutches of the Tiger terrorists?
A: Itís a very heartening place at the moment. I was able to
speak to many people of civil societies, teachers, university
professors, religious leaders and security forces during my visit. The
situation is much, much better than it used to be. There is a sense of
togetherness among the people.
Obviously thereís going to be spoilers for a variety of reasons.
People have identified that communication among people is of paramount
importance in peace building. Though there is more to be done, the
developments are speedily going ahead.
Q: What is your comment on the path taken by the Eastern
Province since its liberation?
A: Democracy is not the ideal but it is better than anything
else. It is important that the Government took the decision to hold
elections. When we spoke to people of all the communities it was evident
that the election was an acceptable one.
There was not much ill feeling among the people. What is needed is
rapid social development in the Province. The feeling was that the
present Local Government body in the area should be active and it should
be very pluralistic. People are of the view that human rights situation
is very much better and it can be improved by providing more job
opportunities to people.
Q: Can you be satisfied with the overall progress?
A: Very much. But I still think it would be excellent if these
developments happen quicker. I guess it goes with my nature mostly - Iím
very much satisfied if things happen more quickly. But I must emphasise
compared to the progress of the entire country the Eastern Province,
given where it started from, has moved very quickly.
Q: Has the country taken the most appropriate steps, in the
present context, for the development of the East?
A: Of course I do agree that we have taken the most
appropriate path but I believe if the strategies in the 13th amendment
are implemented more quickly the results would be much better. That
could have improved the conditions of many areas such as the health
sector. I see that the donor countries funding these development
activities have become very positive about the situation.
There are signs of Japanese and US funds are all over the Eastern
Province. We see a slight drawback in the European countries, may be
because they are surrounded with more LTTE supportive groups residing in
Q: Do you think the real needs of the people are addressed in
A: Well, considering that fact I believe the authorities
should pay more attention to the education sector.
The education sector should focus more on the real situation. Focus
should be more on non traditional education. People need to be trained
to be skilled professionally with English language and computer literacy
is needed. In addition analysing the potentials of the area better
results can be achieved if more attention given to food preservation
mostly in fruits, vegetables and fish.
Q: Developing the economy is a key element to achieve
progress. What is the situation in the East?
A: We need to move a bit more faster in supporting the
entrepreneur culture. In the field of commerce, private businesses need
more encouragement. Perhaps more support to the business community to
provide micro credit facilities can be supportive in the development
process. People need sustainable jobs.
Therefore, skills training for jobs that would encourage business
investments is important. Especially English and computer training is
important in providing vocational training. People of the East should be
in a position eligible for the existing job opportunities. I saw an
excellent project in the East by the Sarvodaya on vocational training.
Q: Fishing and dairy industries are thriving in the province.
Hence, money is continuously flowing from Colombo and outstation main
cities to the farmers, producers and traders thereby increasing the
peopleís purchasing power. How do you analyse this situation?
A: The Government is doing a fantastic job in fish transport
joined with the private sector. Eight lorries per day go out of the
province transporting fish to other parts of the country.
Iím not saying money is flowing in but I would say they are doing
much better than they used to. Although there are pockets of poverty a
lot of commercial activities are happening. Markets are opened.
We saw people enjoying their evenings. So there is a sense of
prosperity coming in. They can do much better. Even with the
restrictions on fishing the industry is going up-hill.
The moment the security restrictions were released to few hours the
LTTE attacked the Ashroff jetty. The fishermen understand the gravity of
the situation. So there is a constant threat. The dairy industry is in
the initial stages but with its high potentials we can have high hopes
in the development of the sector.
Q: It is said that the province can be a model administrative
unit for the entire nation. What is your comment?
A: One of the School Principals I spoke to said that since
they (a Sinhala School) do not have a cricket coach they share a coach
with a Tamil School. This is the sense of brotherhood. What we need is a
much more liberal interpretation of autonomy - More concerted divisional
Divisional plans will be more effective and they would help to create
a sense of a community - in the health sector, education, policing etc.
This is important since areas of the East have certain differences. And
the divisional counselling institutes, which the Government is planning
to set up, will be important as a confidence building measure for the
Q: How do you think the East should direct its progress in the
future in relation to its achievements so far?
A: I think it is through pluralism this could be done. And
therefore it must move very quickly towards uniting the community
through projects. With the existing potential of the area the
agro-business sector should be developed and factories for small and
medium scale enterprises should be set up.
We need to encourage more mega companies to invest in the area.
Already I saw Hayleys and Cargills have set up their farms in the East.
A priest in Muttur suggested the setting up an English medium school so
that all the children of all the communities can learn together. So the
people are very positive towards ethnic harmony, though there is a
slight resistance from certain groups.