A VICTORY cannot be real unless it encompasses all people. The second anniversary celebrations of ending a brutal three-decade war is upon us and it is an opportune time to look at the work that still needs to be done to achieve true reconciliation.
In two years much has been done to resettle thousands of displaced people and give them a sense of normalcy. Massive development projects have taken off the ground and the economy has seen resurgence. However, reconciliation still has a long way to go. So much so that one would consider that there are more pragmatic ways to celebrate the victory over terrorists in a meaningful manner.
All stakeholders have to come together to heal wounds created by the conflict. Many newly-resettled people are struggling without adequate livelihood. It is shocking that even townships both in the south and north do not have basic needs such as readily available drinking water. The country suffered as a whole and there are still many steps that need to be taken to bring people’s standard of life to an acceptable level.
Around 11,800 former LTTE cadres are being rehabilitated by the Government. Around 6,000 are still left but many of those who have been released can be employed. Many can be trained beyond fishermen and farmers, provided that there is a helping hand to tap into their full potential. There are also many, among them graduates, who are searching for professional work in the north and east.
Many soldiers lost their lives and limbs in the battle, as did many innocent Tamil people. Official estimates put the number of soldiers who lost limbs at over 10,000. Moreover, Abhimansala, the war heroes’ resort that is expected to give accommodation for 226 totally disabled soldiers, is to be opened in June, but it would have been more opportune to celebrate the second anniversary with its opening. The genuineness of such a step would bring communities closer together and give more credibility to the Government.
In addition there are many other community level projects that can assist the families of those who gave to the war. There are around 30,000 to 35,000 war widows in the Eastern Province alone who need assistance, primarily from the private sector so that they can support their families. Many people simply want to put the war behind them and move on. However, this can only be done through concentrated action that reaches the people in a meaningful way.
The Central Bank has estimated that the north and east could grow by 13% per annum for the next five years. In parallel, contribution to the country’s GDP growth from these two provinces is expected to increase substantially as well. In 2009 the contribution from the north was 3.3%, up from 2.8% in 2006; whilst that of the east was 5.8%, up from 4.9%. These are positive indications, but it is also important to focus on the people behind the numbers and ensure that inclusive growth is the core of reconciliation.