Empowering the Northern people
It is heartening to note the initiatives that are
being taken by the business sector to open up shop in the North
which was reduced to a wasteland during the 30 year old
conflict. This indeed is a noble endeavour which deserves all
the assistance of the Government which is striving to unite a
In our Business section we reported yesterday about the move
by well known industrialist Kumar Devapura of Tri-Star Apparel
to open the first Garment Factory under the Neganahira Navodaya
program, in Thambalagamuwa, Trincomalee.
Devapura it will be recalled was the driving force in the 200
Garment Factory program during the Premadasa regime. This, while
taking industries to the rural villages also proved a catalyst
for the resurgence of hitherto isolated rural areas not to
mention the thousands of jobs it afforded to the rural youth.
It is hoped that the same changes and transformations will be
witnessed in the North and East too before long, helping the
region emerge from over three decades of isolation that severed
it from the national mainstream.
According to Devapura the new garment factory will be opened
in Thambalagamuwa during the first week of next month. "The area
was earlier controlled by the Tiger rebels. We are targeting
over 1000 job opportunities for the rural community in this
area", he said.
This indeed would be a god sent opportunity to an area which
had been starved of economic activity for decades. There is no
gainsaying the need for a sound local economy to keep the
populace active and cater to their economic and social needs.
Alas, this was not the case in the North and East during the
past three decades. No businessman or entrepreneur set foot on
it's soil due to the unsettled conditions. Whatever economic
activity was there was not allowed to thrive as a result of the
guns and bombs.
This no doubt contributed to the growing alienation of the
Northern populace whilst also cutting them off from the general
scheme of things in the national polity. It is no exaggeration
to say that the neglect of these areas contributed in no small
measure to the swelling of Tiger ranks with unemployed youth
falling easy prey to rebel movements.
Now with the liberation of these areas from the terrorist
grip the time has come to re-integrate these parts into the
national mainstream without delay. The measures already taken to
accelerate the state of normalcy is therefore a welcome
development and the move to set off garment factories will be
just one facet to this integration.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has vowed not to allow the
emergence of any vestige of terrorism once again in this land.
If this is to be a reality it is not just political empowerment
through devolution but economic empowerment that has to be given
There is need for plans to be drawn up to cater to the IDPs
who are to be resettled in their original dwellings in the near
future. No doubt it is going to be a gigantic task to rebuild
their traditional livelihoods with most of Northern landscape
being reduced to a wasteland. These unfortunate people will have
to be guided into other vocations that would bring them a steady
income. Most of the youth are of the new generation who will
naturally opt for new vocations. The necessary infrastructure
has to be put in place so that they could realize their dreams.
Without doubt with the legendary industry and drive of the
Northerner they would be assimilated to the new environment.
It is here that persons like Devapura can come to the
assistance. These folk who all these years have been living a
nomadic existence will have to be trained for the new vocations.
Opening garment factories alone would not suffice if they have
not acquired the skills to fit into their tasks. This aspect too
should be looked into by those who plan to start ventures in the
A proper economic base should also be set up for the people
to find their way and pick up the pieces. In this context the
decision by several Banks to open branches in the North is a
welcome move. According to our front page report yesterday many
banks have shown a considerable interest in resuming normal
Banking operations in the North.
The Government we have argued in these columns should lose no
time in restoring normalcy in the liberated North by supplanting
all the activities and administration machinery of the South in
these provinces. The opening of Banks will accomplish part of
this mission by extending all the facilities and schemes that
have been taken for granted in the South. The move by the
Central Bank to formulate new micro-finance programs to cater to
the credit needs of the Province is also most welcome. This,
while stimulating development in those hitherto neglected areas
would also bring in the much needed economic emancipation to the
people who had undergone much suffering and privations over the