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Ensure North-East Development

A mega development plan for Trincomalee: This is one way in which the Government intends to fight terrorism in the North-East. There is bound to be wide agreement that this is one of the ideal ways in which terrorism should be handled.

A sound development plan which could satisfy the basic aspirations of the North-East people would help in alienating their more volatile sections from the LTTE and guarantee the latter's separatist ideology would have absolutely no positive impact on the people of the region.

Announcing these ground-breaking development scheme for Trincomalee, Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was quoted saying that the Government intended connecting "Trincomalee into a mini Singapore, as we have identified that we could service India, China, Vietnam and the Gulf countries from Sri Lanka", in the event of Trincomalee being turned into a major oil product manufacturing hub in the region.

The energy, petroleum and leisure sectors are earmarked for massive foreign investment under these development plans for Trincomalee which are in keeping with President Mahinda Rajapaksa's strategy of defusing terrorism through satisfactory, equitable and dynamic economic growth. Among other ventures, Lanka's second largest coal power plant is also intended to be located in Trincomalee.

Needless to say, this approach to defusing and defeating terror would have the backing of the majority of the public. Underlying this approach is the well-tried belief that it simply would not do to deal militarily alone with the separatist LTTE.

Sampur marked a turning-point, no doubt, in the Security Forces' military campaign in the North-East and helped tilt the military balance strongly in favour of the Armed Forces but the story surely does not end there on the question of seeing an end to LTTE terror.

If the appeal of the LTTE's separatist ideology is to be blunted forever among particularly the more impressionable sections of the youth of the North-East, development should be made a reality in the region.

More and more gainful employment and increasing life chances in the North-East could convince all sections in the North-East that there is no need for a separate state to ensure the meeting of their just aspirations.

They could all be met under one, united state with there being absolutely no need for a bloody, LTTE-inspired separatist war.

This is where the State failed in the past. There were always intentions to develop the North-East but such plans were never put into action. As a consequence, the revolt in the North-East hotted-up. It would be also correct to state that the aim of the State in times past, was to defeat terror through mainly military means.

Consequently, we had, basically, a military stalemate in the North-East, which took a heavy toll in terms of lives lost and public property destroyed. The North-East youth, in particular, were given to understand that war was the sole means to their socio-economic advancement because it was only through war that a separate State in the North-East could be carved out.

It was impressed on them by the LTTE and its associated groups that the State could not be relied on for their advancement.

This line of thinking could be debunked forever and laid to rest through a sustained development programme in the North-East because, such projects could lay the basis for meeting the just aspirations of all our communities. This would expose the LTTE logic as being baseless.

It will accrue to the credit of Sri Lanka that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has told the world that he is a President who would give everyone who has a grievance a patient hearing. Besides, he is open to discussion. We urge all disaffected sections to seize this opportunity to air their grievances to the President and have their problems resolved in cooperation with him.

Next, it is very important that the State galvanises itself into action in the North-East for the purposes of delivering equitable development. Never must it be felt that the State is dragging its feet over development. Such a negative approach in the past only fuelled separatism further.

Development should begin in earnest and every man, woman and child in Sri Lanka must benefit from it and be fulfilled.

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