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'We are committed to rebuilding the nation’

The premier tells Peter Drennan he is building a country for all Sri Lankans.



(November 010, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) January, Sri Lankans voted for an end to division and a new era of peace and development. This victory, you said, was merely the Start. What are your greatest priorities?

The most important is to rebuild torn among all Sri Lankan communities. This will involve the normalization of the north-resettlement of the remaining displaced persons in the next few months, the reconstruction of infrastructure, the provision of housing, roads, railways, bodges, schools and hospitals. Also the provision of basic services for education, health care, transport, and livelihood support for the resettled people, including new livelihood opportunities.

Next is the economic revival of the country. With the end of the conflict, it is u priority of the government to revive the economy with invest, meat and expansion it, areas such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries, and new sustainable industries. There will also be expansion in the scope of education, IT and human resource development. Eastern & Northern Revival programmes are underway with hitherto unprecedented opportunities for development and Investment in large-scale infrastructure such as ports, telecommunications and agribusiness, to mention a few,

You have sat a goal of doubling par capita income to Scum $4,000. Where do you see the greatest potential for growth?

There are many areas. ‘rho first could be tourism; with the restoration of peace and opening up of the entire country we, have already seen a near 3o% growth of visitor arrivals in the first six months of this year and this favourable trend will continue A master plan is being developed to expand accommodation and facilities to meet the demand.

We also look forward to substantial growth in the services sector, including communications, financial, IT and others accounting for around 63% of total growth. Industry is another important sector: increased foreign investment is expected to fuel growth in a variety of sectors such as garments, rubber-based industries, cement, chemicals, sugar factories, mining, dockyards and Shipping services. Emphasis will be given to eco-friendly and sustainable industries that make best use of the country’s natural resources.

Due to Sri Lanka’s geographical location and the high priority given to port development, work is already in progress on the development of the Colombo, Magampura and Oluvil bar hours. A major aspect of this is the construction of the new Magampura Port which is due to commence operations soon, providing an important facility for vessels using the international sea routes nearly.

We are also drinking of Sri Lanka as an Aviation and Knowledge hub. With the completion of the second international airport it Mattala, Sri Lanka is poised to be the air cargo transport hub of South Asia. This will further suppor the development of tourism. Rapid expansion of IT education will ensure Sri Lanka’s place as a knowledge hub of the region. We have the required resource base with a literacy rate over 96% and both highly skilled and trainable manpower. Within the past five years computer literacy has reached nearly 30%, and is fast expanding.

An agricultural renaissance is expected with the fertile funds in the mirth and cast now available for cultivation. The increased focus on commercial agribusiness is pan of regional development in the rest of the island. We look forward to better results in. agriculture through a careful blend of traditional methods with modern technology.

You haw spoken of the need to develop a Sri Lankan model for development, staying faithful to the country’s agrarian roots. Now should growth be achieved?

I believe in grassroots development. A national campaign has been launched u, increase domestic food production, ensure hand security, and enhance protein and caloric nutrition. We are carrying out welfare and support programmes for rural agriculture on the basis of securing equitable growth levels in rural as well as urban areas. We believe that economic growth should be fairly and equitably distributed amongst all regions, especially the less developed rural agricultural sector. These policies are also intended to reverse the trend of youth migration from villages to the city. There are Rand signs that this change is already taking place. In addition to the cultivation of rice and other food crops importance is also being given to dairy farming for increased milk production,

You haw stressed the need to build a nation with opportunities for all Sri Lankans, what are the challenges you face?

Rebuilding a nation after prolonged conflict requires great commitment and an enormous amount of capital inflow. We have the commitment. Ours is chiefly an economic challenge m to how to procure the funds required for past-conflict, development programmes. A major challenge is to rebuild war-damaged areas and provide capacities for livelihood development of these people. The government of Sri Lanka looks forward to the assistance of friendly nations in this endeavour.

We have launched a rapid infrastructure-development programme in the north and east, in addition to plans to develop education job oriented training for youths etc., to ensure equal opportunities are available to the people in the north and east, and other less developed areas.

Participation of the International community in this ask will demonstrate its commitment to the progress of Sri Lanka and prosperity of all people. We created history by defeating terrorism. The world can best assist us by recognizing this and supporting nor moves for reconciliation and the strengthening of peace.


(From The Times of London)

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