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Sunday, 1 November 2009

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Northern civilization back to old glory



Developing the A32 road

The new bridge over Aravi Aru

New cooperative shop at Kathankulam

The machinery donated by the Chinese Government

Assistant Government Agentís office in Adampan under renovation

Developing the Giantís tank

The Kathankulam village, located 1 1/2km away from the Uyilankulam junction on the Madawachchiya-Mannar road, was dusty and looked dry as usual. The abandoned ghostly village was returning to life. The villagers were being resettled. The wind of change was blowing into many parts of this legendary 'rice bowl' of the Mannar district.

During early 2008 the LTTE was strongly holding the areas North of Uyilankulam with heavily fortified earth bunds and intense fire power. Villagers were forced out by the LTTE as war was intensifying since the last quarter of 2007. The villages were abandoned. The lives of innocent civilians were mired in misery.

Today, the area holds no traces of terrorism. Earth bunds are completely flattened; mines and booby traps pulled out and the villages are made safe for habitation with all remains of terrorism got rid of. Other than the natural constraints, the area holds no obstacle for the people to rebuild their lives.

Back to their homes

Thirupathipillai (40) returned with his wife Saraswathi and three children to Kathankulam hoping to rebuild their lives. His two elder sons, aged 10 and 7, were running around with their friends while he was speaking to us during the special meeting held in Kathankulam, inaugurating the second phase of the Government's mega resettlement program. He related his story in Sinhala without much difficulty.

They have suffered immensely in their efforts to save their lives. "I was expecting my daughter while we were displaced," said Saraswathi. She gave birth to her only girl child on August 24, 2008 at the Killinochchi Hospital. Thirupathipillai, a farmer by profession, speaks good Sinhala as his mother was from Matale. A few acres of paddy lands owned by him is the only source of income for their family. Living under LTTE tyranny, being driven from one place to another, the Thirupathipillai family had only one hope, that was just to escape. They knew nothing about what existed beyond those seven feet tall earth bunds. They did not know that the Sri Lanka Army was there to welcome them and provide everything for their well being.

"On last February 8, we were attempting to escape the LTTE and we had to cross three waterways, carrying my five-months-old baby. On the first attempt I drowned with the baby. Fortunately my brother-in-law who was behind me came to my rescue.

I thought I lost my baby," said Saraswathi recalling their deadly attempt to escape. They climbed a seven feet tall bund without getting caught by the LTTE and crossed three waterways in their escape bid from Iratumadu, the last point they stayed on. Many had died during such escape attempts.

"In 1987 LTTE killed my father, accusing that he helped the Sri Lanka Army. Many villagers from Kathankulam were killed in a similar manner," Thirupathipillai said.

Maria (61) escaped the ruthlessness of the LTTE, running away from Iratumadu with her husband during early February 2009. The horrific memories still haunt her mind. They were forced to move into such places as Achchimotai, Paliaru, Wanneri, Killinochchi, Sugandipuram and Iratumadu. Maria was one of the thousands who reached Omanthai by feet during the height of the war. Today they have been resettled in their village, Kathankulam.

Mary, a 36 year old primary school teacher was eagerly waiting with her son and daughter to return to their old house. Her house without its roof has stood the test of time. "I feel very lucky. See my house is there," said Mary.

The teacher with eleven years of experience was teaching at Arnimottai Government Tamil Mixed School which was 16 kilometres away from Kathankulam.

"Soon I will be able to go back to school. I never thought we will ever be able to return home," Mary said with gleaming eyes filled with hopes and dreams.

New phase

In the next few weeks the Government will be resettling over 40,000 people in many parts of the Northern Province. The majority will be resettled in cleared areas in the Mannar 'rice bowl'. Scattered villages with a considerable distance from each other remain desolate. Almost all the villages are now safe for resettlement and with the passage of time people will return to their homes.

Within a few years all traces of fierce battles will disappear and no one will be able to identify it as an area where soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army shed their blood, toil and tears in their efforts to save their motherland.

At the dawn of this new era, living in peace and harmony in equal terms as one nation would be the eternal gratitude we can pay for the supreme sacrifices made by our valiant soldiers.

The development work is getting accelerated in the areas specified for the resettlements. Areas south of Malwathu Oya where the previous resettlements took place are completing its development activities giving especial attention to access roads.

Two roads are under construction connecting Puttlam and Silavathura including the A32 while the road connecting Silavathura with Mollikulam is being repaired at a rapid phase. The road that connects Mahawilachchiya with Silavathura is also under construction with a new bridge at Kundachchikuda.

Supporting farmers

The Engineers of the Sri Lanka Army - 'sapper' - are making the paddy fields of the Mannar 'Rice Bowl' ready for harvest. Being abandoned for over a decade the lands have become fallow making it difficult to plough with traditional means. With the heavy vehicles provided by the Government, the 'Sapper' are preparing the lands to support the farmer community who are being resettled in these area.

The Chinese Government has donated a fleet of modern machinery for the second time in support of the efforts of the Government in resettling the Internally Displaced Persons and developing the North. The official handing over ceremony of the Rs. 2049 million worth of machinery took place last week at the Galle Face green in the presence of the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for Northern Province Development, Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa M.P.

The Government has taken urgent measures to reconstruct and renovate the irrigation system in the Northern Province on the recommendation of the Northern Task Force.

The demining process is successfully carried out in areas surrounding the Giant Tank and Iranamadu Tank. The demining work is expected to be completed before the next paddy cultivation season.

Measures will be taken to ensure that the demining process is carried out in such a way that no threat will be posed to the people and their livelihood programs after resettlement.

Several irrigation tanks in the Vavuniya district including the Pirappanmaduwa, Kanakkayagama will be renovated paving the way for the Sinhala families, who were forced to flee due to LTTE threats and intimidations, to be relocated

A new irrigation project - Varukkai Aru Scheme - has been initiated at a cost of Rs. 103.99 million.

Construction work is afoot with Rs. 138 million being allocate for irrigation projects in the Jaffna district, under the "Uthuru Vasanthaya"- 180 day accelerated development program. These areas have a great potential for paddy and other crop cultivation. Over 357 vehicles and machinery are made use of to develop the road networks, irrigation and water works in the North.

The voluntary return of all Internally Displaced Persons is a salient feature in the mega development drive in this postwar era. The Sri Lankan Government is proceeding at an accelerated pace in implementing its development priorities in the hope of restoring the Northern civilization to its old glory.

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