Another new beginning
Adding to the accelerated across the board
transformations in the Northern landscape following the end to
the three decade old war, the long abandoned Jaffna-Colombo bus
service was re-started on Wednesday to the great relief of many.
Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa MP on Wednesday
flagged off the first convoy of five buses at the auspicious
time of 10.32 a.m. amidst rousing cheers by the Jaffna
The buses will ply on the A9 route via Medawachchiya to
Colombo for the first time in two decades opening a land route
for North-South passenger travel. This certainly will be a great
boon not only for commuter travel but also for the small time
trader on both sides who will now have a convenient means to ply
their wares across the divide. The lesser time factor too would
reduce the risk of spoilage of items such as vegetables and
fruits. Of course the large scale trader and businessman will
transport their goods in lorries. But the bus service will also
now see huge loads of merchandise piled on the hoods of buses
destined to North and vice versa, a familiar sight in the past.
Earlier, goods were transported to and from the North via
chartered vessels one of the reasons for the astronomically high
Cost of Living in the peninsula. Now the buses could ferry them,
in double quick time. For the passengers though it would no
doubt revive memories of past travels on this very route in
those tranquil days where people of both communities mingled
freely with each other as the buses ploughed through the dusty
roads bordered by thick jungle and the people especially
children enjoying the sights of the abundant fauna on those long
Hence this bus service will signify just more than an easy
mode of transport from the North and South and vice versa. It
would be a symbolic reunification of the past of two separated
communities and another step towards the President's efforts to
build bridges with an estranged people.
The opening of the new bus service would no doubt go a long
way in the Government's efforts to resuscitate the Northern
economy. For the constant movement of people to and from the
Peninsula would no doubt inject a fresh life and momentum to the
once dormant and abandoned landscape bringing with it, it's own
spin offs such as trade links and what is more, people to people
contacts, which taken together would be an ideal recipe for
stimulating the economy.
The opening of bus service could also have vast tourist
potential with more and more foreigners keen to visit the war
ravaged areas for souvenirs, which the authorities would do well
to exploit. It would also be a big money spinner for hoteliers
and restaurateurs and one would before long see the once
ubiquitous eateries which catered to stop over passengers
springing up like mushrooms along the A9 route.
There is no knowing the economic activity that would be
generated not to mention the potential for direct and indirect
employment. Therefore the inauguration of the bus service could
not have come at a better time when the Northern Spring program
has taken off in earnest. The heavy influx of people to the
peninsula through easy access now can only provide a huge boon
to the development activity now continuing apace.
But the most significant aspect of the bus service is it's
symbolic role as a bridge to bring together people of both
communities who were separated for over three decades and as a
facilitator of the integration process.
The decision taken by the Education Ministry to be
firm on the acceptance of donations for school admissions should
be appreciated. According to our front page story yesterday the
Ministry has issued an edict to educationist especially school
principals that no payments should be accepted when students are
accepted to Government schools.
Of course this does not cover facilities fees or payments to
school development societies. But these too should be on a
voluntary basis and there should not be even a hint of coercion.
How this is going to be monitored is not exactly clear. But the
Ministry has at least read out the riot act.
There is no denying that the effects of the free market has
had it's fall-out even on the school edifice once a sacrosanct
holy cow. They too are now in the grip of the commercial
juggernaut at the expense of values, ethics unlike in the past.
The ruses adopted by many school principals to extract donations
from hapless parents are all too well known to merit
elaboration. The instances of school principals who have been
taken in for bribery too are legion.
Therefore whatever action taken by the Education authorities
to stem the rot should be welcomed and appreciated. For, if this
state of affairs is allowed to continue it would negate the free
education system of which the country takes pride in.
However the Education Ministry should also devise a way to
net in school authorities in private schools too where the big
rip offs take place. After all, is it not it's duty to clean up
the whole education set up?