The New Democratic Front (NDF) presidential candidate yesterday pledged to hold two special donor conferences in the North and East to obtain foreign aid for the development of both areas. Speaking during an election rally in Mullaitivu, Mr. Premadasa said he would do it as soon as possible if elected to office.
“Holding donor conferences after the conflict in many countries is done to obtain aid to rebuild the affected areas. However, Sri Lanka has failed to follow this practice even after the lapse of ten years since the end of the conflict. I will do it as soon as I come to power,” he said.
He also pledged to open two special units of the presidential development task force in the North and East. “I will personally look into the development of the North and East,” he said.
While stating that his opponents were making statements which provoked communalism and extremism, the NDF candidate said he would bring in legislation to control such statements if elected to office. “There will not be room for religious and ethnic extremism under a future administration,” he said.
He also promised to implement irrigation projects in Mullaitivu in a bid to make the northern seas a safe environment for local fishermen to carry out their livelihood. He pledged to set up technology colleges similar to that of the Indian Institute of Management and Indian Institute of Technology which have branches in all States in India. He also promised to set up branches of technology and management institutes in each divisional secretariat division. “Through these institutes, we will create employment opportunities for the youth in the North and East,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ministers Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Bathiudeen criticised SLPP allies for expressing provocative statements. They also complained that some SLPP members put extremist and terrorist labels on them.
Minister Bathiudeen said he was against extremism though some were pasting that label on him. “We are ready to coexist with other religious and ethnic groups in the country,” he said.
Minister Hakeem said some SLPP politicians instigated extremism over minor issues. At the same time, he said people in Mullaitivu and those in the rest of the province and others in the East suffered as a result of 30-year-long war.
“ITAK had provided a good answer to SLPP by deciding to back Mr. Premadasa unconditionally. People in the North and East suffered as a result of the war. However, the reason for the conflict was a result of undermining the Tamil language. The language issue was resolved by the 13th Amendment under which Tamil has been recognised as a State language. What we want is a situation where all communities and religious groups coexist and enjoy the same rights,” he said. (Yohan Perera in Mullaitivu)
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana