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Monday, 18 March 2013

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 OPEN TO THE MATTALA CHAPTER

Mattala airport opens today, and our bumper supplement on the MRIA should put everybody in the picture on the evolving new reality that Mattala airport in Hambantota district is defining a new paradigm in development.

Hambantota has hitherto been considered the backwoods – a sleepy arid expanse, that in the remembered past, fomented rebel activity against the State.

It is from the arid terrain and the immediate region that slogans such as ‘kolamabata kiri apata kekiri’ originated. Mattala curiously seeks to turn that particular lament on the head.

Already the misinformed and the totally addle-headed are seen to be complaining that Mattala will close down the Bandaranaike International Airport. This is of course a figment of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s erratically active imagination.

But the fact that anybody is saying this is an indication that some Colombo elites – Colombans -- are feeling ‘Hambantota ta kiri, apata kekiri’ already in their guts (cream for Hambantota, watermelons for us.) Though this kind of contestation between cities is healthy, what’s more important is that this new picture of a freshly ascendant Hambantota signifies a spanking new paradigm for development.

Hambantota is a vast a terrain -- acres and acres of it, and for a densely populated country, it is one of the relatively unexplored regions.

But that brings for the province, a built-in advantage which is in fact a disadvantage that has been turned into an advantage.

The relative lack of potential in Hambantota for agriculture for instance, may have ensured that the region remained as part of the Sri Lankan backwater that fell into the persistent atrophy of neglect. Successful governments let that situation remain, taking under-development for granted.

But the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, with Mattala, signifies that what is in fact perceived as a disadvantage, can be turned into Hambantota’s main advantage over the rest of the nation.

Developing the Western province for instance, can be a nightmare, with every land clearance activity being resisted by an entrenched population, and every nook and corner being already utilized either by the government, or by private enterprise. But Hambantota is different.

Vast areas remain unexplored, and untouched -- and it is in this virgin territory that the authorities blazed a trail to establish an airport which proves to be the catalyst for a quantum leap industrial effort that would be the envy of the rest of the country – one that may even raise (misplaced) anxieties no doubt, about 'Hambantota ta kiri -- apata kekiri.'

The plan is also to utilize the vast unexplored potential in an imaginative and organized fashion. Each project will be interconnected to the other, and IT parks and eco-hotspots will co-exist, making for a dreamland of modernism, that would probably make for a Singapore with far greater quantities of acreage.

Sri Lanka seems to be therefore the country in which ‘every prospect pleases’ though only a few men are vile. These evil elements seem to be surprised that we are doing it our own way, which is what the Maldives did years ago after a UNDP survey pointed out that there is zero tourism potential for the group of atolls that are called the Maldive islands!

We all know about how true that was! This is the same thing the editorial writers are saying for Sri Lanka, that the country’s insistence on forging a new development paradigm of her own, will not pay dividends because it is difficult to go against the prognostications of the ‘experts.’

Who are the experts? The same people who say that Sri Lanka’s ‘rights situation’ will see no proper development of the economy, and that our refusal to follow the diktat of the West, would result in economic disaster as the Western countries have the money to invest, and their non-cooperation as a result of what’s perceived as our non-cooperation (!) would eventually stymie all of this country’s plans.

This is the conventional wisdom of the flat-earth theorists. These people see the world one dimensionally. They refuse to consider that the old order changeth -- and that it yieldeth place to the new, (and if you believe in god) that god fulfills himself in many ways. Time will tell, of course, but suffice to say the developers of Mattala airport however, have history on their side. For instance, when they said some years ago that the war will be over soon, nobody believed them either!
 

UNHRC cracking under overbearing weight of Navi Pillay

UNHRC is stuck in a crisis of its own making. It has begun to crack under the watch of Ms. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner. It is time for her to get her act together and hold the scales evenly to preserve the image of the UNHRC as a credible institution for all the nations to rally round it.

Full Story

Sri Lanka Rights Watch

HUMAN RIGHTS and concern for the NEGLECTED

Amongst the agencies that I have worked with over the last year to encourage movement on the National Human Rights Action Plan, the most important from outside the government sector has been the Institute of Human Rights. They have been the most regular in attendance of the groups that come together in the informal consultative mechanism I set up together with the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, even before I was appointed to convene the Task Force of the Inter-Ministerial Committee responsible for implementation of the Plan. Ironically, given the absence of a Ministry with direct responsibility for Human Rights, sometimes I feel the informal committee we have does more work.

Full Story

 

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