The keynote Address delivered by Secretary Defence and Urban
Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa at 'Defence Seminar - 2012'
The full text of the speech.
Prof G.L. Peiris, Hon. Minister of External
Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, Member of the Indian Parliament
Hon. Members of Parliament
Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of
Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President
Mr. Karunarathna Amunugama, Secretary to the Ministry
of External Affairs
Chief of Defence Staff and Commanders of the Armed
Inspector General of Police
Senior Government and Military Officials
Former Commanders of the Army
Distinguished Speakers and Invitees from friendly
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address the Opening
Ceremony of the Defence Seminar 2012. This is the second successive year
in which the Defence Seminar is being organised by the Sri Lanka Army.
On behalf of the Government, I take great pleasure in warmly welcoming
to Sri Lanka all of the distinguished delegates who have come from many
countries around the world to attend this event.
The theme selected for this year's seminar is "Towards
Lasting Peace and Stability". Under this topic, Sri Lanka's post
conflict efforts on Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation,
Reintegration and Reconciliation will be discussed. This is both
appropriate and timely. Last year's Defence Seminar focused on how the
defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka was accomplished. As Sri Lanka enjoys
its third year of peace and stability after the defeat of terrorism, the
great progress that has been accomplished here is similarly worthy of
Sri Lanka today is one of the most peaceful and stable
countries in the world. It is a country in the midst of a national
revival. How this transformation has been achieved is at the heart of
this seminar. During the course of these three days, all of the
participants will have the opportunity to learn about the strategies
adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing its post conflict
development challenges. I particularly encourage the foreign delegates
to make full use of their time here to interact with and learn from the
people who were instrumental in our post-war efforts. I am confident you
will learn a great deal of value from their experiences.
The war in Sri Lanka ended on the 18th of May 2009
with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as
the LTTE. The LTTE was one of the most vicious terrorist organisations
in the world, and was once described by the American Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) as being "among the most dangerous and deadly
extremists in the world". Its defeat was greeted with an immediate and
unprecedented outpouring of relief and joy throughout the country.
However, at the same time, the Government was deeply aware of the grave
challenges and responsibilities it faced in the war's aftermath.
Demining needed to be carried out over
approximately 5,000 square kilometres of land
Reconstruction had to take place in the former
LTTE controlled areas
Nearly 300,000 internally displaced people needed
to be Resettled
Close to 12,000 surrendered LTTE cadres had to be
Rehabilitated and then Reintegrated
Normalcy had to be restored throughout the land;
Measures had to be taken to foster national
Reconciliation and economic development.
The Government of Sri Lanka has achieved remarkable
progress on all these fronts during a remarkably short span of three
years. During the course of this address, I will briefly discuss each of
these post war challenges and outline the ways in which they were dealt
The most pressing issue that needed to be addressed
was ensuring the wellbeing of the civilians who had been displaced from
their homes. As the war progressed, the LTTE moved people out of their
towns and villages and retreated to its strongholds near the North
Eastern coasts. By the time the war ended with the LTTE's defeat,
295,873 internally displaced people were left in the Government's care.
They could not return home because their towns and villages were no
longer safe for human occupation. As it retreated, the LTTE had laid
large quantities of antitank mines, antipersonnel mines, and many
different types of Improvised Explosive Devices in the areas it left
behind. Demining those areas swiftly and resettling the internally
displaced was a significant challenge for the state.
In total, it was suspected that mines had been laid in
more than five thousand square kilometres of land. Demining such a vast
area was a very difficult challenge that the Government unhesitatingly
undertook immediately after the war ended. Many foreign organisations
came forward to assist the Government, including the Danish Demining
Group, the Indian Sarvatra Group and the Horizon Group, the UK based
Mines Advisory Group and several others. These groups took on the
responsibility of demining various identified tracts of land throughout
the North and East. The Sri Lanka Army was given the responsibility of
demining the largest area of land, which comprised almost 1,500 square
kilometres and included most of the densely mined regions.
The entire demining programme was carefully planned
and executed. Priority areas were chosen to maximise efficiency and
enable the speedy return of the internally displaced. The first priority
was to demine the towns and villages. The second priority was to demine
the agricultural areas and paddy fields. The last priority was to clear
the forested areas. I am pleased to note that as of today; nearly all of
the two main priority areas that were identified for demining have been
cleared. Work only continues in a few areas where the concentration of
mines is at its highest. Many of these areas are places where heavy
fighting took place during the last stages of the war. It is expected
that these areas too will be completely cleared in the very near future.
The scale of the problem the Government faced in
demining can be clearly seen from the number of mines and other devices
unearthed and neutralised during the demining process. As at end June
2012, 469,275 antipersonnel mines, 1,399 anti-tank mines, and 388,963
unexploded ordnance devices had been recovered. It is because of the
number of mines and IEDs laid by the LTTE was so very large that
demining in some areas continues to this day.
Alongside the demining process, Reconstruction was
expedited in each area that was cleared of mines and rendered safe. As a
result of LTTE action and long neglect, many of the houses, business
premises, Government offices, schools, hospitals, other facilities and
infrastructure were in need of significant repair and improvement.
Despite the Government's continuous provision of utilities and services,
LTTE dominance had prevented long term development from taking place in
these areas for nearly three decades. As such, the existing facilities
and infrastructure were quite poor before the Humanitarian Operation was
launched in 2006. After the dawn of peace in May 2009, bringing these
towns and villages to a level on par with the rest of the country was a
key concern of the Government.
The renovation of houses and construction of new
housing units was one of the Government's first priorities in terms of
reconstruction. The Army has been involved in several programmes to
renovate damaged houses and construct new ones. Under a grant sponsored
by the Government of India, 43,000 new houses will also be constructed
in these regions. The pilot project for this programme was launched in
2010, and 1,000 houses have already been built and handed over to the
beneficiaries. Through the on-going programmes, the housing stock in the
North will be greatly increased and improved over the next few years.
Infrastructure development was another key concern.
Almost immediately after the war ended, His Excellency the President
appointed a Presidential Task Force for Reconstruction and Resettlement
in the North to expedite work in these areas. The Government also
launched a programme entitled "Northern Spring" to undertake large
development projects in the North. A similar programme called "Eastern
Dawn", had already been launched in the East even while the Humanitarian
Operation was still underway. Infrastructure development, electricity,
water supply and sanitation, agriculture, irrigation, livestock
development, inland fisheries, health, solid waste disposal, education,
sports, cultural affairs and transportation were all areas addressed
under these two programmes.
A team of officials was appointed to each District to
identify and direct the necessary activities. Essential infrastructure,
including access roads, minor tanks, public buildings, hospitals,
schools, were upgraded quickly in order to facilitate speedy
resettlement. With the completion of these priority projects, attention
turned to larger undertakings. The development of the road network
throughout the North was expedited. Several important bridges were
built. The restoration of railway infrastructure was also a priority,
since this had been destroyed by the LTTE and had ceased functioning in
1990. Repairing this infrastructure was critical. The railway track from
Omanthai to Pallai is scheduled to be completed by September 2013, and
the track from Pallai to Kankasanthurai is expected to be completed by
June 2014. The track from Medawachchiya to Madhu is scheduled for
completion in March 2013, and the remainder from Madhu to Talaimannar is
expected to be complete by September 2013. Township development,
including improved administrative facilities for enhanced delivery of
state services, is also taking place in all districts.
Much of the irrigation infrastructure, including
canals and tanks, was restored early on to revive agriculture and
farming, while major programmes to upgrade drinking water supply and
sanitation are also underway. Through expedited electrification
programmes, many areas that did not have power before have begun to
benefit from electricity. The restoration of most of the 1,000 schools
that functioned in the North is another significant achievement, as are
the steps being taken to improve healthcare through construction of new
facilities and upgrading of old hospitals. In addition to the
infrastructure and facilities being built by the Government, I am
pleased to note that a large number of private sector organisations have
set up operations in the North, including financial institutions.
The role played by the military in the reconstruction
activities just described deserves to be highlighted. For many of the
projects undertaken, especially those begun soon after the end of the
war, the military provided engineering expertise, construction plant and
equipment, as well as much of the necessary manpower. While state owned
institutions such as the State Engineering Corporation and the Central
Engineering Consultancy Bureau undertook several responsibilities, and
while many private sector and foreign organisations won contracts for
certain projects, the fact remains that the military was essential in
facilitating the reconstruction activities. At the same time, it also
helped facilitate several other important functions, including
supporting the care of the internally displaced.
While demining and reconstruction activities were
going on, the displaced civilians were housed at Welfare Villages set up
by the Government. There were five Welfare Villages in all: four in the
Vavuniya District, including Manik Farm, and one in Mannar. Each Welfare
Village was divided into blocks of shelters. The shelters were provided
with electricity, and each block had separate kitchens, toilets, bathing
areas and child friendly spaces. Special priority was given for public
areas and for the conduct of recreational activities. Provision of water
exceeded World Health Organisation requirements, and all sanitation
facilitates were maintained to a good standard.
Food and nutrition was a particular area of concern.
During the initial stages, cooked food packets were distributed to the
IDPs, but within a couple of weeks, community kitchens were set up in
each residential block. Basic rations were issued free of charge. In
addition to what was provided by the Government, significant assistance
was provided by the UN organisations, foreign countries, NGOs, civil
society organisations and the general public. Cooperative outlets and
markets were established, and many IDPs also started individual
businesses within the Villages. State sector and private sector banks
established outlets inside the villages, and post offices and
communication centres were also set up.
Extensive healthcare facilities and sufficient medical
supplies were provided in all the Welfare Villages. A Directorate of IDP
Healthcare was established under the Ministry of Health, and medical
officers were appointed to be in charge of each Welfare Village. Other
health workers, including nurses, pharmacists and public health
officials worked under their guidance. Each Welfare Village had a
Primary Health Care Centre and a well equipped Referral Hospital. As a
result of all the care taken at the Welfare Villages, the IDPs soon
recovered from the ill health they had suffered while with the LTTE.
Between May and June 2009, the crude mortality rate fell from 0.7 per
10,000 per day to 0.5 per 10,000 per day, which is the threshold rate
for South East Asia. By July 2009, it had settled at 0.15 per 10,000 per
day, which is the threshold rate for Sri Lanka.
Special facilities for psychiatric care, including
support for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, were
provided within the Welfare Villages. Psychosocial support, including
counselling programmes, was provided. Many efforts were taken to promote
religious, spiritual and cultural activities, and places of worship such
as Kovils, Churches and Mosques were established through community
consultation, with special facilities being provided for all clergy.
Community centres and common areas were built for adults, and young
adults were provided with career counselling.
Vocational training centres were also established in
each Welfare Village for capacity building and empowerment. IDPs were
assisted in setting up home businesses. Special public administration
services were provided, including facilities to reconstruct legal
documents and issue temporary Identity Cards. 'Happiness Centres' were
established for children, and various activities including art, music,
drama, yoga and sports were conducted. Schools were established from
Grade 1 to 11 in all the Welfare Villages, with special Advanced Level
classes being conducted at Kadirgamar Village.
The internally displaced remained in the welfare camps
only for as long as it took to demine their places of origin and
reconstruct necessary infrastructure to facilitate their resettlement.
Under the speedy resettlement programme launched by the Government soon
after the war, a significant number of the IDPs were resettled in their
homes. By the end of July 2012, just three years after the end of the
war, the Government has successfully resettled 237,672 IDPs. A further
28,398 have chosen to live with host families in various parts of the
It should be noted that 7,185 had left the IDP camps
on various grounds and did not return, while a further 1,380 sought
admission to hospitals and did not return after treatment. 802 IDPs died
due to natural causes during the time they were awaiting to be
resettled. Only 5,424 individuals from 1,597 families remain in the last
functioning Welfare Village. These IDPs are from areas that have the
highest concentration of mines, which have taken a little longer than
expected to render safe. The Government intends to complete the
resettlement of all IDPs by the middle of this month. Resettling nearly
300,000 internally displaced people in just three years is a very
significant accomplishment. It would not have been possible without the
professionalism and commitment of the military, which facilitated almost
all the major undertakings involved.
Apart from the IDPs, the Government faced another
major challenge with regard to Rehabilitating the large numbers of LTTE
cadres who surrendered or were detained during the course of the
Humanitarian Operation. A total of 11,989 LTTE combatants surrendered to
the military during the Humanitarian Operation. These cadres were
categorised according to their known level of involvement in LTTE
activities, and treated separately. The Bureau of the Commissioner
General of Rehabilitation was established to oversee the their
rehabilitation and reintegration.
A 'six plus one' rehabilitation process model was
adopted for the beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programme. This
process rested on six pillars; namely Spiritual, Religious and Cultural
Activities, Vocational & Livelihood activities, Psychological & Creative
Therapies, Sports & Extracurricular Activities, Sociocultural Activities
and Education. Community awareness programmes were also conducted, and
efforts taken to sensitise the public to the needs of the beneficiaries
so that they would be more receptive to their reintegration.
Particular attention was given to the 594 child
soldiers who surrendered. A special rehabilitation programme was
organised for them, with assistance from UNICEF. These programmes were
carried out at the Child Protection Centre in Poonthottam and the Hindu
College Ratmalana. Much effort was taken to provide proper counselling
for these child beneficiaries. Special spiritual development activities
and positive values cultivation programmes were conducted for them.
Formal education was provided, with classes being conducted for more
than 200 students between Grade 8 and Grade 11, and 65 students in the
Advanced Level sections. Several 6 month long vocational training
programmes were also conducted in subjects including information
technology, aesthetics, carpentry, masonry, beauty culture etcetera. The
child beneficiaries were reunited with their families within one year,
although 74 came back to Hindu College Ratmalana to continue the
education programmes they had been following.
The adult beneficiaries of rehabilitation were
initially housed in 22 Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation
Centres maintained by the Bureau of the Commissioner General of
Rehabilitation. All of the centres were built to a good standard. It is
important to stress the fact that several International agencies and Non
Governmental Organisations such as the IOM and UNICEF were given free
and unfettered access to the rehabilitation centres. So too were
diplomats, media personnel, lawyers, and the family members of the
beneficiaries. Special leave was also granted to many of the
beneficiaries to visit their families, and attend religious and cultural
activities at home from time to time.
All beneficiaries underwent extensive programmes that
were designed to equip them with the ability to return to normal life in
society. Spiritual, religious and cultural rehabilitation programmes
were also conducted, with an intention to reacquaint the beneficiaries
with cultural and family norms. Psychological and creative therapy
rehabilitation was provided, including group counselling and therapy
sessions, aesthetics and drama therapy programmes. Beneficiaries were
also encouraged to take part in various sports activities.
Special training and periodic refresher training was
provided to centre administrators on how to provide psychological first
aid and counselling. The counselling programme was designed in
partnership with the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, Ministry of
Social Services and Social Welfare, and many Non Governmental
Organisations engaged in the field. This was intended to correct the
mind-set of the ex-combatants and affect attitudinal change. Much effort
was taken to enable them to develop their personalities as individuals.
A lot of attention was paid to the reunification of
families, with married ex-combatants being given the opportunity to
re-join their spouses, children and parents at special rehabilitation
centres called 'Peace Villages'. This enabled many beneficiaries to
continue their rehabilitation without any disruption to their family
life. A mass marriage ceremony was held in June 2010, where 53
ex-combatant couples were formally given in marriage with the consent of
their parents and families. The marriages were conducted per religious
customs and traditions, and many parents and well-wishers attended the
ceremony. A special Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centre
was established at Kaithady in Jaffna to cater to the reunification of
married beneficiaries as well.
A special programme for 'catch up education' was
provided in collaboration with the Education Department for young adults
who opted for the programme. Under this, 361 students sat for the GCE
Advanced Level examination in 2010. 222 of these students passed this
exam. In 2011, 304 students sat for the Advanced Level examination, of
whom 43 became eligible for university admission. 166 students sat for
the GCE Ordinary Level examination in 2010, of whom 91 passed, and 77
students sat for the same exam in 2011.
46 different vocational training courses were also
provided to the beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programme. The
courses involved many sectors, including agriculture, industry, services
and entrepreneurship. Substantial opportunities were provided for
training information technology, with assistance from private sector
implementation partners, and a computer lab was set up with the capacity
to train approximately 100 persons at a given time. A number of
programmes were created to support beneficiaries who wished to set up
their own businesses, with courses being conducted on self-employment,
entrepreneurship and micro enterprise development. A special loan scheme
for self-employment was also launched. It is important to note that
steps have also been taken to recruit a large number of these
rehabilitated ex-LTTE combatants to the Civil Defence Force. They will
be used for development activities in their areas of residence.
The Reintegration of the rehabilitees to society took
place only after trained counsellors assessed their preparedness to
adapt to society and resume normal lives. Reintegration programmes were
conducted at various stages, including a large ceremony that was held at
Temple Trees in September 2011 in the presence of His Excellency the
President. In all, 10,965 rehabilitees have been reintegrated to society
as of now. 121 were released in 2009; 5,227 were reintegrated in 2010
and 5,027 were reintegrated last year. So far this year, 590
beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programme have been reintegrated to
Only 636 beneficiaries still remain in rehabilitation,
at four centres located at Maramadu, Welikanda, Kandakadu and
Poonthottam. These rehabilitees are not yet ready to be reintegrated to
society, and require more time to recover from the LTTE's indoctrination
and regain full capability to lead normal lives. It should be noted that
a further 383 ex-combatants who were in the rehabilitation programme
have been identified and detained for further investigations and legal
action. It should also be mentioned that many of the LTTE cadres who
were detained during the course of the war have also been sent for
rehabilitation, with only the cadres most involved in LTTE activities
being selected for prosecution.
The primary focus of the rehabilitation and
reintegration programme was to equip the former LTTE cadres with
alternative means to a meaningful existence. It was felt that the best
way to deradicalise these individuals was by granting them the chance to
become productive members of society who had no reason to feel
marginalised or insignificant. A preliminary report on research
conducted about the rehabilitation programme by Dr. Kruglanski and Dr.
Gelfland of the University of Maryland, College Park, in the USA, has
indicated that even hard-core ex-LTTE cadres have undergone a
significant reduction in their support for violence. The more the
beneficiaries built up a rapport with the staff members and guards at
the rehabilitation centres, the less likely they were to support the
violence they believed in while they were with the LTTE.
These findings are not only very encouraging from the
point of view of restoring normalcy in Sri Lanka, but they also
vindicate the approach adopted by the Government towards rehabilitation
and reintegration. This approach has been extremely generous. Most of
these cadres who were beneficiaries of rehabilitation and reintegration
were involved in attacks against Armed Forces personnel on the field of
battle. Some may have also participated in atrocities against civilians.
As a result, the normal response by the state would have been to keep
them in detention and prosecute them. Indeed, this has been the practice
in most post-conflict situations.
However, His Excellency the President had a very
different view. Instead of prosecuting the majority of the cadres, he
insisted that they be rehabilitated and reintegrated to society as fast
as possible. He understood that these former cadres had been misled by
the LTTE, and that they needed an opportunity to be guided onto the
correct path. As a result of this vision, the vast majority of cadres
were rehabilitated and released to society in just two years. That is a
truly remarkable achievement. Nowhere else in the world have enemy
combatants been treated with such generosity and rehabilitated at such
speed. The sincere commitment of His Excellency the President and the
Government of Sri Lanka to reconciliation can be gauged through this
Considering the indisputable progress that has been
achieved on demining, Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and
Reintegration, Reconciliation has become the only issue on which those
who wish to criticise Sri Lanka can dwell. Yet this too is an unfounded
criticism. Over the past three years, a great deal of work has been done
to improve the opportunities and access to state services of all Sri
Lankans, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, caste, or place of
origin. The focus has been to empower all sections of our society, and
most particularly those who were under the LTTE for so many years, so
that they can fully benefit from the dividends of peace.
Restoring normalcy to the North and East as quickly as
possible after the dawn of peace was an essential first step in this
regard. Disarming the Armed Groups that had stood against the LTTE in
these areas during the war was very important. Members of groups such as
the EPDP, EPRLF, PLOTE and TMVP had carried arms for self-protection
against LTTE attacks. After the LTTE's defeat, and the full
re-establishment of Government control in those areas, immediate steps
were taken to disarm these groups. Their members were encouraged to
pursue democratic activities. Many of them are now involved in
mainstream politics, and some are involved in other peaceful social
Another essential step was the removal of the various
restrictions that used to be in place as a result of the conflict. There
were restrictions on travel to the North, including restrictions on
foreigners, media personnel and both foreign and local Non Governmental
Organisations. Since the dawn of peace these restrictions were
progressively curtailed. As of today, there are absolutely no
restrictions on travel. Instead, there is complete freedom of movement
for all people in the North. The complete removal of restrictions that
had been imposed on various items was also important. During the war,
the transport of certain items was restricted for fear that they would
be used by the LTTE in offensive operations. As of today, these
restrictions no longer exist.
The restoration of the freedom of movement has been a
tremendous boost not only to the North, but to all the people of Sri
Lanka. Large numbers of local tourists travel from the North to the
South and from the South to the North on a daily basis. Large numbers of
visitors from abroad have also come to Sri Lanka over the past three
years. Since July 2011, more than 51,400 foreign passport holders from
over 100 countries have visited Sri Lanka and travelled to the North,
including nearly 31,500 this year alone. A considerable number of them
were expatriates visiting their ancestral homes and properties and their
relatives in Sri Lanka. This is a testament to the freedom that exists
throughout this country. It is in stark contrast to the situation that
prevailed while the LTTE continued to pose a threat.
Many restrictions also used to be in place at sea due
to the grave threat posed by the LTTE's Sea Tiger wing. This section of
the LTTE launched attacks on our Naval assets after infiltrating
sensitive areas in the guise of civilian fishing boats. As a result,
restrictions were introduced on fishing not only in the seas off the
North and East but throughout the country's entire coastline. These
included limitations on the times and the locations in which fishermen
could put to sea as well as restrictions on the size of their fishing
craft and the power of their outboard motors. All these restrictions
were removed in phases after the end of the Humanitarian Operation.
Restrictions on the times at which fishing could take place were
gradually phased out between June 2009 and February 2010. The remaining
restrictions, including those on the power of outboard motors, were
removed by October 2011. Restrictions on fishing near critical harbours
have also been greatly reduced.
In terms of restricted areas on ground, the High
Security Zones in the North have been removed over the last two years.
In five stages between October 2010 and November 2011, much of the area
covered under the High Security Zone near the Palaly Cantonment was
released, with lands in seventeen Grama Niladhari divisions being fully
handed back to civilians. The Palaly cantonment is now the only area in
which some security restrictions remain, but even within the Cantonment,
civilians have free access to the airport and the Kankasanthurai harbour.
While it is true that there are still some civilian
properties within the Cantonment, it must be stressed that civilians
have not occupied these properties for the last twenty to twenty-five
years. The Government has taken measures to pay compensation to the
owners of these properties and to provide alternate lands to them. It
should also be noted that lands that had been forcefully taken from the
people and occupied by the LTTE for many years have also been released
to their legal owners.
In addition to the reduction in the extent of the High
Security Zone, the reduction in the numbers of security barricades,
roadblocks and checkpoints in the North and East is also significant.
There were large numbers of such security measures in place during the
course of the conflict and immediately after, but these were gradually
withdrawn after the dawn of peace. In 2009, there were approximately
2,000 checkpoints, sentry points and roadblocks in these two Provinces.
Today, there are hardly any.
The number of troops deployed and the number of camps
remaining in the North and East has also been reduced to a bare minimum.
28 battalions that were in the North have been relocated to the South
and the East. The overall number of troops in the North has also reduced
by more than 21,000 since 2009. Troops will remain in strategic
locations for security purposes, but their presence will be
non-intrusive. The day-to-day maintenance of law and order has already
been handed over to the Police.
Concurrently, the capabilities of the Police
Department to carry out these duties have been significantly improved.
Eleven new police stations have been established in areas where they had
not been allowed to exist while the LTTE dominated territory in the
North and East. 789 Tamil policemen have been recruited between 2009 and
2011, and they have been trained and posted to these police stations. In
2012 alone, a further 425 have been recruited. Training in Tamil
language has also been provided to additional numbers of police
The restoration of democratic elections in the North
and East not long after the end of the war is another act of which the
Government is very proud. Provincial Council elections were held in the
Eastern Province even before the Humanitarian Operation had ended, and
Local Authority elections were held for the Jaffna Municipal Council and
Vavuniya Urban Council as early as August 2009. A Presidential Election
and General Election were both held throughout the country in 2010.
Local authority elections held island-wide last year saw free and fair
elections being throughout the North and East. In the areas formerly
dominated by the LTTE, people exercised their franchise without fear for
the first time in three decades. The Tamil National Alliance emerged
first in most electorates, but the main Government party also came close
in several of them. The fact that political plurality has returned to
these areas is clear from the results of these elections. The swift
restoration of democracy and the right to vote in those areas previously
under LTTE dominance is very significant.
Further, it needs to be noted that many former
militants are now playing an active role in politics. The LTTE's one
time Eastern Province Commander, Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, also
known as Karuna Amman, is a junior Cabinet Minister. A former LTTE child
soldier, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, also known as Pillayan, is the
Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. A number of former LTTE cadres
have also become Chairmen of local government bodies. Their
participation in the political process demonstrates the robustness of
Sri Lanka's democracy.
With the restoration of normalcy through all the
measures discussed above, the most fundamental requirement of the people
in the North and East is the opportunity to build a better life for
themselves. That is why, as was described before, the Government focused
so much attention on the infrastructure and services needed to
facilitate the return of economic life in these areas. A great deal of
work has been done to facilitate the resumption of livelihoods amongst
the people in the North. Financial assistance as well as assistance in
kind has been provided to farmers, fishermen and small business owners.
Several such programmes have already yielded excellent results.
In this context, I am particularly pleased to note
that a great deal of work has been done by the military to help the
civilians. The Army has renovated more than 6,000 houses and constructed
nearly 7,000 new permanent or semi-permanent houses for the civilians
being resettled. It has constructed 19 schools, created 23 school
playgrounds, and renovated more than 55 old school buildings. Assistance
has also been provided through the provision of fishing gear, utilities
for farming and provision of livestock and seeds for agriculture.
Medical clinics are held from time to time, and assistance is provided
for the conduct of religious, cultural and other festivals. During this
critical period, as the newly resettled people are finding their feet,
the role played by the military in assisting the civilians has helped
our Armed Services win their hearts and minds.
As the people of the North and East resume their
day-to-day lives in a peaceful and stable Sri Lanka, they do so with
fully restored democratic freedoms, greatly improved standards of living
and with unrestricted opportunities to make a better future for
themselves. I have every confidence that as a result of the many
beneficial developments that have taken place since the end of the war,
there will be no space for the re-emergence of our previous problems.
Sri Lanka's journey during the three years since the
dawn of peace has seen the country transform itself from a nation at war
to a country that is amongst the most peaceful, stable and secure in the
world. The unwavering commitment and resolve of the Government to
swiftly implement measures for Reconstruction, Resettlement,
Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Reconciliation has laid the foundation
for a prosperous future for all our citizens, irrespective of their
diversity and differences. I have every confidence that as we step
forward into this brighter future, we will do so together as Sri Lankans.
That is the greatest accolade that can be paid to the success of Sri
Lanka's post-conflict development; that will be our legacy to future