'Recalled to Life'
It is Sri Lanka's
Northern Province that we had in mind when we used that famous
line from the opening chapter of Charles Dickens' celebrated
novel, 'A Tale of Two Cities', as the heading for this
commentary. As in the case of the principal character in
Dickens' masterpiece, who, we are told, was being 'recalled to
life' after languishing for decades in jail and finally being
given his freedom, the North is now bestowed the opportunity of
rejuvenating itself through the initiation of a state-led
development thrust, close on the heels of the LTTE's diktat
being brought to an end. For those with a poetic bent, this is
as good as being recalled to life.
Our front page lead story yesterday is bound to have had a
heartening impact on all those who mean well by the Northern
We are informed that some 30,000 Northern families will be
given the opportunity of tilling the fields of some districts
and of making them bear fruit and thereby satisfying their food
needs. It is also said that 80,000 to 100,000 acres of land will
come under the plough for the first time in the province, with
the assistance of banks and state agencies.
All these and more happenings point to the brightening of the
general development prospects of the North, following three
decades of chronic underdevelopment and backwardness, resulting
from the blighting influence wielded by the LTTE. If not for the
conflict, the North would have, perhaps, been as developed as
the Western Province, given the industriousness of the people of
Therefore, our wish is that the opportunities that are
opening up will be used judiciously and to a maximum by the
people of the North. Likewise, the agencies of the state, we
hope, will continue to maintain a vibrant presence in the region
and continue to be of assistance to the people. Thirty years of
missed opportunities need to be made up for and the people would
need to be assisted along the way until they are stable and
completely on their feet. Meanwhile, the holding of the upcoming
local government polls would only improve the development
prospects of the people because they will be in a position to
elect the representatives of their choice to the respective
local bodies and thereby improve their chances of being better
The improvement in the life chances of the Northern people
could also be seen strikingly in the public examination success
rate of one time LTTE child soldiers. In a remarkable
development, some of these former combatants are even qualifying
to enter the Medical and Engineering Faculties of our
universities. This is a glowing success story that speaks
eloquently of the general capabilities of these students, while
highlighting the positive role being played by the state and its
agencies in the rehabilitation of one-time LTTE cadres. Indeed,
they are being 'recalled to life' and given more than ample
opportunities to pick up the pieces and go ahead with their
These success stories need to be carefully documented and
highlighted because they constitute part of the answer to the
criticisms currently being leveled at Sri Lanka by sections of
the international community. Those tens of thousands of persons
who found refuge in the areas of the North, in mid-May 2009,
which were controlled by the security forces, having run away
from the LTTE in terror, are today being well served and looked
after by the state because in the eyes of the state they are
equal in every respect to the rest of Sri Lanka's citizenry.
Such impressive performances would need to be sustained in
the days and years ahead by the state.
The people whose lives were destroyed by the LTTE should not
only be 'recalled to life' but be given the opportunities and
wherewithal to integrate themselves into the mainstream of life.
Equality of opportunity and condition should be marked features
of their lives. These are vital steps to take in the further and
progressive democratization of Sri Lanka.
The upcoming local government elections should be seen by the
state as offering it an opportunity to enhance the quality of
local democracy. Provision should be made for the establishment
of multi-party competitive politics in the Northern Province.
The will of the people must be enabled to reign.