Over the past few years, the people in the Northern Province have seen quite a few changes around them in terms of infrastructure development.
The absence of war and conflict paved the path for development to gain firm footing in the region. In fact, the rapid infrastructure development changed the face of the Northern Province for the better.
However, one of the allegations levelled against the then Government was that the benefits of the development activities did not reach the people.
It was pointed out that development activities were mostly centered on the A9 Highway and did not reach out to the interior villages.
Despite the development, the civilians continued to complain lack of access to basic facilities such as health, education and transport.
The Government officials in the area admitted that a lot of work needed to be done if all the people were to benefit through the development process. The Government Agents in the Wanni at the time explained that empowering the people of the area, and to make them come out from the trauma they faced due to the war, was an uphill task and would take some time.
Several measures were taken by civil society members and area politicians to ensure that the short-term needs of the people were met.
A forum named Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF) was formed with the participation of several Tamil parties excluding the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The aim of the forum was to come to a consensus pertaining to the long and short-term needs of the Tamil speaking people in the North and East.
The TPPF especially focused on the immediate needs of the people. However, the move failed to make substantial progress owing to several issues including the failure of the parties to come to an understanding on addressing the issues. The lack of understanding between political parties on such basic matters saw the failure of the forum.
On the other hand, the people continued to find it hard to get back on their feet despite the various programmes initiated by the Government.
The focus of the government was to ensure that the very basic facilities were provided to the people in order to get back on their feet after the war.
The Government initiated several programmes to provide raw materials and equipment needed for them to engage in agricultural and fishing activities. In addition, the government also encouraged the public to indulge in home gardening where they could cultivate their own crop and selling it to traders.
Further, the youth in the region were also provided with vocational training on various aspects such as Information Technology, welding, wiring, masonry and carpentry. The local government officials have now teamed up with several metal workshops to provide employment for the youth who have been given training.
President of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce and Industries, K. Vignesh earlier stated that another factor that was needed was to provide a platform for the traders in the Northern Province to broaden their market.
He pointed out that traders in the area needed the exposure and contacts in order to improve their businesses.
“Transport facilities have improved since the end of the war and traders from other parts of the country come here to indulge in business activities. But, the businessmen here do not have much contacts in other parts of the country or abroad through whom they could even export their products to other countries,” he said.
The Chamber of Exporters last year initiated a programme for Northern producers to improve the quality of their products to international standards. The programme also allowed the Northern businessmen to interact with other Sri Lankan businessmen and exporters where they were briefed on the necessary quality improvements that were needed in order to compete in the international market.
The initiatives that have been taken so far need to expand. Businesses in the North need to expand so that the lifestyles of the people change for the better.
For that to happen, it is important for the authorities to keep a close tab on the short-term needs of the people. Seven years is a long enough period for the people to improve themselves. But, they did live with war for 30 years, which is pretty hard to come out easily.