Restrictions seen blocking NORAD projects

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 January 1999, 19:55 GMT]
"The concept of the uncleared and cleared areas is irrelevant. Every region has problems. All development work is prepared on the basis of the needs of the people. The economy of the whole district would be affected if there is no development or rehabilitation work in the uncleared areas" said Mr.A.K Pathmanathan, the Government Agent (GA) of Batticaloa today while addressing a meeting arranged for an official visit of the Norwegian Ambassador to the region.

The GA was referring to the Sri Lankan government's ban on all development work funded by foreign governments through their aid agencies, chiefly the NORAD, in those areas of the Batticaloa district dominated by the Liberation Tigers. The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) refers to territory controlled by it as 'cleared areas' and those regions dominated by the Tigers as 'uncleared'.

The NORAD which has engaged in major development and rehabilitation projects in the Batticaloa district in the past will not be able to spend anything in the vast hinterlands of Batticaloa this year because of the Sri Lankan government's ban.

The NORAD had allocated 112 million Sri Lankan rupees for development work in the district during 1999, to be spent mostly in the hinterlands.

The Norwegian Ambassador told the audience that his government cannot interfere in the matter as it was a policy decision by the Sri Lankan government not to permit development and rehabilitation work in the 'uncleared' areas.

Mr.S.Raveendran, the Deputy Director of the Irrigation Department in the Batticaloa district said that the majority of the rice fields and irrigation works of the region are in the 'uncleared' areas and therefore development and rehabilitation should be carried out there.

NORAD's resident advisor in Batticaloa Mr.Oddbar Hollub also pointed out that the very basis of the district's economy lies in the uncleared areas.

Mr.S Wimaleswaran who spoke at today's meeting on behalf of several local farmers' organisations argued that the whole island is 'uncleared' if one were to apply current security criteria to determine what area is cleared and what is not.

He said that it is obvious therefore that the ban on development and rehabilitation work in 'uncleared' areas is a premeditated plan to debilitate and undermine the economy and infrastructure of the Batticaloa region.

"The NORAD has helped us more than the Sri Lankan government" Mr.Wimaleswaran added.

Meanwhile TULF MP for Batticaloa Mr.Joseph Pararajasingham sent a letter to the Norwegian team today urging them not to ignore the 'uncleared' areas of Batticaloa in their development and rehabilitation projects.


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