By Rohitha Bogollogama
May 19th 2009 is a day that will be etched in golden letters in the annals of the history of Sri Lanka. It was on this day that our valiant armed forces secured a decisive military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had waged a relentless war lasting almost three decades with the objective of carving out an ethnically cleansed separate State exclusively for Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
It is fitting to take stock of the situation in the country as we commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka. Today, the people of Sri Lanka are able to once again breathe the air of freedom and get about their day to day affairs, without the fear of being caught up in a suicide bombing in a crowded public place. The fear psychosis that gripped the entire nation is gone and I believe this has brought about a perceptible change in the mindset of the people- a renewed air of optimism and hope for the future.
We can justifiably be proud of the track record of the Government in expeditiously addressing many urgent issues in the immediate aftermath of the conflict- the Government has been hugely successful in rehabilitating and re-settling the vast majority of the almost 300,000 people who had been forcibly evicted by the LTTE from their homes in the North and herded on to the banks of the Nandikadal lagoon. Less than 10,000 people remain in IDP camps today awaiting the completion of the long and arduous job of clearing of land mines and booby traps, laid by the LTTE in their places of original habitation.
Moreover, the Government has undertaken an accelerated programme of socio-economic development of the war ravaged North and the East under the Vadakkil Vasantham (Northern Spring) and Kilakkil Uthayam (Eastern Rising) programmes, under which a large number of schools, hospitals, roads and highways that had been partially or completely destroyed have been rebuilt. It is a matter of immense satisfaction that of the over 10,000 LTTE fighting cadres, including child soldiers who surrendered to the armed forces at the end of the conflict, the overwhelming majority have been rehabilitated and in many instances provided vocational training and reintegrated into civil society.
The challenge that lies ahead for the Government today is to continue with commendable measures taken so far with regard to re-building the war damaged physical infrastructure in the North and the East. The more formidable and indispensable and yet unfulfilled task that remains outstanding is to reach out to the people belonging to all communities who still bear the emotional scars of the conflict, so that a process of reconciliation among the different communities is set in motion. In this onerous undertaking it is vital that all segments of the society, as well as the international community join hands with the Government, to enable the creation of an era of sustained peace and prosperity for our people.