Call to release land to revive Sri Lanka’s war-torn north

ECONOMYNEXT – Parliamentarians from Sri Lanka’s north called for releasing military-occupied land to help revive agriculture and create jobs in a region still struggling to recover 10 years after the Tamil Tiger separatist rebellion was crushed.

The most urgent need was short-term programs to create jobs for people, they told a finance ministry forum to discuss the economic development framework for the Northern Province master plan commissioned by the Central Bank.

The framework was developed with the co-operation of UN agencies and bilateral donors including those funding development projects in the mainly minority Tamil north.

Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Mavai S. Senathirajah noted how the Vadakachchi farm in Jaffna employed 600 people before the 30-year war but was still under military occupation.

“If the land is released, the farm can employ 200 people immediately,” he told the forum.

During the 30-year war, the armed forces took over large tracts of land under security measures taken to protect military bases such as air fields and harbours, partly to secure them against artillery attack.

Senathirajah also said a saltern in Jaffna could be revived if government funds were allocated, with the local co-operative society ready to take it over.

“We need short-term programs to create jobs and build up the economy,” he said. “Agro-based industries can be started but the problem is large extents of agricultural land are still with the military.

“In Jaffna and Mullaithivu, the manpower is there but we are not giving them opportunities do agriculture. The basic need is to release lands and allow people to work the land.”

 (Colombo/February 21/2019-SB)





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