North and East: Content and optimistic | Sunday Observer

North and East: Content and optimistic

31 December, 2017
An IT program in progress
An IT program in progress

Eight years on after the 30 year conflict ended, with peace and democracy restored in the war-torn Northern and Eastern Provinces, and all stakeholders , including some among the ex-combatants, are running for the upcoming Local Government polls. The Sunday Observer talked to three of the Government Agents (GAs) in the two provinces on livelihood programs that are being implemented and to get a general picture of the people’s economic situation.With celebrations of the festive season and the dawning of the New Year gaining momentum in Colombo and other parts of the country, we also talked to some of the members of the public in Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Kilinochchi, selecting them at random, to ascertain their frame of mind, what they thought about the economic situation, security and anticipations for the future. The GAs and those we contacted expressed content on the present situation and optimism about their security and the future.

Excerpts of their views:

GA for Mannar District M.Y.S.Desapriya: Both development and livelihood programs that are being implemented in the district are much more compared to previous years, and NGOs are also working hand-in-hand with the Government on improving the standards of living of the people. The District Secretariat is encouraging farmers to cultivate their agricultural lands in the current Maha season and a majority of them have heeded our request.

The water level in the Giant Tank and other minor agricultural tanks that remained 9 Ac.ft in November has increased to 12 Ac.ft with the little rains received in the recent weeks. We are opening the sluice gates of the tanks to help the farmers in the initial stages of their paddy cultivation, anticipating more rains in the coming monsoonal season.The funding we received this year for infrastructure and development projects is Rs.2,500 Mn. With a considerable number of Catholic and Christian people living in the district, celebrations of the festive season is gaining momentum, as the people engage in their shopping spree.

GA for Mullaitivu District, Rupawathy Ketheeswaran: The fund allocations for the district for this year for projects on infrastructure , livelihood, housing, sanitation, water supply and minor tanks and irrigation is Rs. 1,997 Mn. Funds have been disbursed to individual families at the rate of Rs.100,000 and more. National food and nutrition programs are also being implemented.

The district which previously had the highest percentage in the below poverty line, at 28% percent, has now improved to 12 % as per surveys, and, accordingly the standard of living too has improved. About 500, are however trapped in micro-finance schemes of private companies. According to private and state banks, financial transactions and savings from among the public have enhanced. Overall, we observe a slow but steady economic progress.

GA for Ampara District Thusitha P. Wanigasinghe: Enhanced funds, compared to previous years, for livelihood and development projects in the district have been pumped. A considerable number of families have been resettled. There are some new projects under implementation on economic and infrastructure development. In the district, there are about 85,000 Maha season, and about 65,000 Yala season paddy cultivators.

The farmers have cultivated their paddy fields for the Yala season and we are anticipating monsoonal rains. As of November this year, water capacity in the Senanayake Samudra and other small irrigation tanks, numbering about 250, was only 7.5 %. With the recent rains, it has increased by another 1.5 %. We have opened the sluice gates of the tanks to help the farmers during the initial stages. The weather looks cloudy and the occasional drizzle signals monsoonal rains in the near future. The streets of cities and smaller towns are bustling with life. The people of the district are generally better economically and socially, compared to previous years.

Kathiraman Ariyanayagam (49), Kallady, Batticaloa: I quit my job in a private company and now I am on the lookout for a job. My wife is employed as a Samurdhy Development Officer. We have a daughter aged 7. We have gone through all the trials, tribulations and vicissitudes of life, especially, during the conflict period.

Things are better now and we want to celebrate the dawning of the New Year. Unlike previously, all consumer items are freely available in the market now, although prices are slightly high. There is a sense of security and ethnic harmony. Although we are Hindus, we are looking forward to celebrate the New Year and are optimistic about a happy future and a contended life.

Mahendrarajah Devaraaja (65), Transport Manager in a private transport company, Urumbirai, Jaffna: Above everything else, there is a sense of freedom and an atmosphere of security. It was not so in the past. Although the cost of living is high, we have all the basic requirements , the infrastructure, employment opportunities and hopes for a better future. There were days we could not get food items , fuel and kerosene. Children now have education facility and safety.

M. Vivekanandan (55), Journalist, Kilinochchi: I am only reflecting the sentiments of the people around here. They think democracy and freedom have now sprouted although not yet fully grown. There is scope for future prosperity and socio--economic well-being. According to surveys conducted there are about 90,000 widows in the North and the East. A livelihood facility for them is a matter that has to be addressed on a priority basis. The people’s anticipations for a solution, within a limited time frame, on those who had disappeared under sinister circumstances and those under detention have not been fulfilled yet, and they are very much disappointed in that respect.

Although the high cost of living is common to everyone throughout the country, measures need to be taken to address this also.

Ponnu Kamalendaran (50), Cable TV Operator, School Lane, Maharambaikulam, Vavuniya:People now feel as if they have been released from the tight grip that held them for some time. They now have the freedom and democracy to think and act on their own, without any outside force.They have the freedom to travel to any part of the country and eke out a living doing a job or engaging in their traditional profession. This is my sincere personal opinion. The cost of living is high, but we have three square meals a day, can buy everything we need, and, therefore, we do not feel that the cost of living is high. My wife is a housewife and my only daughter is schooling. 

Kinniya Bridge in the Eastern province