Oct 16 (MT) This is the second part of a three-part analysis of how the Sri Lanka government managed the peace process after it defeated the Tamil rebellion.
"Alongside the de-mining 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. 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 programs to renovate damaged houses and construct new ones."
As laid out at the conference, infrastructure development was another key concern. The Sri Lankan government launched a program entitled "Northern Spring" to undertake large development projects in the North. A similar program 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 programs.
Explained Rajapaksa: "Much of the irrigation infrastructure, including canals and tanks, was restored early on to revive agriculture and farming, while major programs to upgrade drinking water supply and sanitation are also underway. Through expedited electrification programs, 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, a large number of private sector organizations have set up operations in the north, including financial institutions."
The role played by the military (the former bitter foe) in the reconstruction activities 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 undertook several responsibilities, and while many private sector and foreign organizations 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.
As de-mining and reconstruction activities were going on, the displaced civilians were housed at five Welfare Villages set up by the government. The shelters were provided with electricity, and each block had separate kitchens, toilets, bathing areas and child friendly spaces. Special priority was given for setting up public areas and for the conduct of recreational activities.
Extensive healthcare facilities and sufficient medical supplies were provided in all the Welfare Village. Each had a primary health care centre and a well equipped referral hospital. As a result of all the care given, the IDPs soon recovered from the ill health they had suffered while with the LTTE. Special facilities for psychiatric care, including support for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, were provided together with psycho-social support, including counselling programs.
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 to carry out their respective ministries
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 Centers" 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,
The internally displaced remained in the welfare camps only for as long as it took to determine their places of origin and reconstruct necessary infrastructure to facilitate their resettlement. Under the speedy resettlement program 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 country.
Apart from the IDPs, the government faced another major challenge with regard to rehabilitating the large numbers of LTTE cadres who surrendered or had been detained. A total of 11,989 LTTE combatants surrendered to the military. These cadres were categorized 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 their rehabilitation and reintegration.