The appointment of a Presidential Task Force to
oversee the recovery program of the Northern Province is a sound
move particularly given the enormous ramifications of the job at
The Task Force appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa
through powers vested in him under the Constitution has been
given a wide mandate among other things to prepare strategic
plans, programs and projects to resettle internally displaced
persons, rehabilitate and develop economic and social
infrastructure in the Northern Province.
It is appropriate that such a high powered task force be
given job of charting the development course for the North
because it is only such a body which has the President's
authority that would get things moving fast. And there is an
overwhelming need to get things moving fast given the unfolding
humanitarian crisis which calls for a quick remedy.
One of the tasks entrusted to the Special Task Force is to
apply innovative solutions to problems and constraints
confronted in the execution of its mandate.
Certainly a gigantic task as the recovery of the Northern
Province from the ashes of three decades of war needs an
extraordinary effort. Such an overwhelming task cannot be
undertaken by the normal State machinery which is necessarily
hamstrung by it's own limitations. We have often seen how
frustrated foreign investors had thrown up their arms and left
the country due to the foot dragging by the various State
agencies and Government regulatory bodies.
No doubt there is going to be massive investment from
overseas as well as the country's private sector in the
reconstruction program. The President obviously has realised
that no impediment should be placed in their path if the various
projects and programs designed for the long suffering people of
the North are to be implemented speedily.
The appointment of Senior Presidential Advisor Basil
Rajapaksa MP to head this Task Force too is a wise step. Given
the vast strides reached in the development sphere in the
Eastern Province carried out under his supervision one can be
optimistic that things would move even at a faster pace on the
Northern front. In fact all members of the Task Force are men of
competence with a proven tack record.
Their prime task would be to remove all bottlenecks and
ensure that the programs are implemented speedily. Such a Task
Force is also of much value to ensure that funds that would pour
in are properly utilised avoiding waste. As we have mentioned in
these columns before, development should go hand in hand with
military victories so that no vacuum is left for further
frustration to creep in to a long suffering community. This
phenomenon is now being witnessed in the East where concurrent
to the military victories development projects started moving.
The Northern Provincial election to be held shortly can only
strengthen the process while additionally restoring the
democratic rights of the people to go hand in hand with the
renaissance of the North.
As part of it's mandate the Task Force will also liase with
all organisations, the public, private sector and civil society
organisations for the proper implementation of the programs and
Such a coordinated effort is vital since the North is bound
to have unique features of it's own in economic, cultural and
social development that only could be addressed through a
It is important that development and social integration
programs match the particular demands and requirements of the
Northern polity. In the past, wasteful projects were haphazardly
done in areas where such projects had no relevance or public
acceptance. The Southern Development Authority is a case in
point. This was because the people were not consulted in the
While the Presidential Task Force plan out the development
requirements of the people in earnest it should also pay
attention to develop a proper administrative structure that
would ensure all the people's needs are met. Today the North is
a barren wasteland wherein any development plan would have to be
worked out from scratch. The Task Force would have to carefully
work out how to rebuild the shattered livelihoods of the people,
restore basic facilities such as health and education and map
out the development of infrastructure.
The Government has already done this successfully in the East
where Local Government elections were successfully held and the
people given a stake in running their own affairs. Hopefully
this scenario will be replicated in the East before long.