Peace before development -World Bank told

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 July 1999, 12:06 GMT]
Leaders of Tamil groups in Colombo told a World Bank team that the war in the Northeast should be brought to and end before any development projects are initiated in the province.

They said that a lasting solution to the ethnic problem should be found through negotiations with parties concerned.

The World Bank team led by Ms. Linn Bennett, Director, Social Development Unit for South Asia Region met some Tamil leaders on Tuesday.

The discussion took place at the World Bank's office in Colombo.

The meeting was called to discuss the launch of a massive development plan, the-North East Integrated Irrigation Project (NEIIP), at an estimated cost of about 600 billion rupees, to renovate more than 800 tanks in army and Tiger-controlled areas.

Mr.R.Sampanthan (TULF), Mr.Douglas Devananda (EPDP), Mr.T.Siththarthan (PLOTE), Mr.Kumar Ponnambalam (ACTC) and Mr.T.Wijesingham (ACTG) participated in the discussion.

Mr.Sampanthan briefed the World Bank team about the ground situation in the North east province. He said that agriculture, fisheries and other industries were ruined due to the war in the province.

People were unable to earn a living and could not move around freely within the province, he said.

Schools are without the essential educational equipment needed for teaching and people in the province need assistance to run their day to day life, he added.

Therefore it was not advisable to launch a massive development project in the province before ensuring normalcy, Mr. Sampanthan said.

Firstly, the war should be brought to an end. To achieve this, talks with the LTTE must begin and an acceptable political solution should be found to the ethnic problem.

The World Bank should help the parties achieve this aim, MR.Sampanthan added.

Mr.Sampanthan said that the LTTE had expressed their willingness for talks as had the Government and the UNP. But the government and opposition party only expressed their willingness in words and not in deeds, he said.

The World Bank team was told that funds from foreign countries channelled through the government for the development of the Northeast province were not fully utilised by the authorities.

Some of the money is spent in the Northeast while the rest is diverted to other parts of the country, the World Bank team was told.

Mr.Sampanthan appealed to the World Bank team to exert pressure on the government to stop the war and to find a negotiated political solution, before launching any massive development projects in the province.


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