18 October, 2019

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Connecting Sri Lanka: Train To Jaffna

By Asanga Abeygoonasekera –

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

On 09 November, the world will remember the fall of the Iron Curtain. Twenty five years from this date the Berlin Wall was dismantled; this iconic moment triggered the end of the Cold War. One may wonder what journey a contemporary super power such as the US has navigated for the last twenty five years and if this same process will occur in the case of China emerging as the next super power. The Economist indicators support that Asia’s export share has doubled from 18 per cent in 1980 to 36 per cent in 2013. The month of November will also commence with an important discussion on the re-emergence of the ancient Chinese Maritime Silk Road. This seminar on the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR)” with Sri Lankan and Chinese scholars will be held in Sri Lanka. The Chinese President’s proposal on the revival of the ancient Maritime Silk Road was fully supported by the Sri Lankan President several months ago. MSR is of importance to the island of Sri Lanka, due to its geo-strategic position at the centre of the Silk Road. It is important to ponder on the balancing role Sri Lanka plays between China and India, as within the scope of development in this country, China is heavily present in the South and India present in the North.

On the note of development within the country, the Yal Devi (Queen of Jaffna) Train resumed operations from Colombo to Jaffna after 24 years. Re-starting on 13 October, it marked a landmark in railway links between South and North of Sri Lanka. This rail link was constructed in 1905 under British colonial rule. On the present day the India Railway Construction International (IRCON), an Indian railway subsidiary, completed the restoration of the railway lines with a cost of Rupees 58 billion, on the basis of financial assistance from India. President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated the new railway line. When speaking to the media at the event, the President said, “This effort will connect hearts of the people in south and north and this was the main aim of the new railway to the north after liberating north from the LTTE control.” The LTTE bombed the Yal Devi train at Kokavil on 19 January 1985 killing 34 people and destroying train tracks, which disrupted connectivity. Providing transport to the North is a good deed; however one may question how far physical infrastructure helps in connecting the hearts and minds of the people. Infrastructure development to create access to different parts of the island could provide economic benefits to those localities that were deprived of development due to the three-decade war. However, there are many other factors apart from physical infrastructure that could help to connect on a mental and humane level as citizens of a single nation. Strengthening the reconciliation process, implementing the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) recommendations and working towards fully implementing the13th amendment devolution of powers to other parts are important areas to focus on. While you may need one set of values to succeed in war, it takes another set of values for the post war scenario. The values the government possesses in the post war context from 2009 to the present day are debatable.

In matters of governance, incidents such as the Aluthgama riot with the Muslim community and the recent diplomatic chaos in New York will definitely create a negative impact, and does not create a positive image outside the country. Outside the boundaries of the nation yet directly affecting it, the ban against the LTTE was lifted in European Union. The late Lakshman Kadirgamar, was an astute foreign minister who worked tirelessly to ban the LTTE in many nations. One of the greatest achievements during President Chandrika Bandaranaike’s administration was this ban on the LTTE. In lifting the ban on this ruthless terrorist group that assassinated many innocent people indiscriminately, the future consequences of this act towards the country and the entire world should be evaluated.

Closer to the day-to-day lives of Sri Lankans; the government budget proposal was presented to parliament a week ago. The considerable increase in expenditure and inadequate evidence to increase revenue is evident. The projected fiscal deficit of 4.2 per cent of GDP is unlikely to be realised with the rise of expenditure. One of the key areas that budget does not focus on is research and development of the country, a primary area towards the five-hub strategy. The Rupees 500 million budget for research and development is insufficient in the serious development of an important sector. Staying focused on maintaining power seems in this case more important than policy matters, as judging by the latest budget proposals. The election budget and accelerated development in the North such as the new train line could be due to plans for early presidential elections in January 2015.

Connecting to win the hearts and minds of all communities of the Island will be challenging after three decades of war but this is achievable with the right strategies and processes by the government.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    2

    “I am not worried about the
    opinion of the Jaffna people…
    now we cannot think of them,
    not about their lives or their
    opinion… the more you put pressure in the north,
    the happier the Sinhala people will be here…

    Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala
    people will be happy.”

    – Sri Lanka’s First Executive President, Daily
    Telegraph, 11 July 1983

    • 4
      0

      Asanga Abeygoonasekera is another Sinhalese parrot repeating distorted stories of maligned Sri Lanka since independence.

      When will they stop their distorting history?

      Why don’t they they mention all the anti-Tamil pogroms let loose by the Sinhalese?

      Do they think the world is full of fools to believe their fabrications?

  • 3
    2

    Asanga

    Forgot that foreign passport-holders have been asked to gt MoD clearance to go to the North as soon as the trains started to go to Jaffna?

    Reason given by Defence Ministry: ”it is the duty of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development to take appropriate measures to prevent negative interventions, particularly in the Northern Province.”

    Negative interventions by the govt:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/namal-rajapaksa-building-a-cult-of-personality-in-the-north/comment-page-1/ https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/satellite-images-uncover-lies-spewed-by-sl-military-in-jaffna-land-grabs/comment-page-1/

    • 2
      2

      Davidson Panabokke

      “Forgot that foreign passport-holders have been asked to gt MoD clearance to go to the North as soon as the trains started to go to Jaffna?”

      That is because the current Govt thinks that the North is a different country and the vis is for Sri Lanka not for that country, called EElam-Land or EElan-Desh, or EElam=Stan.

  • 4
    2

    Oh, Yarldevi to Jaffna was followed by MoD press release on likelihood of”negative interventions” in the North by foreign passport-holders. That resulted in preventing UN officials in Colombo from travelling to the North!

  • 0
    1

    Good article Asanga your following in your great fathers footsteps!

    on a small note the Yaal Devi stopped running in June 1990 not in January 1985,the train was bombed and attacked in Jan 1985 but then resumed operations (with disruptions and stoppages)and was working during the IPKF time till they left in March 1990 and finally stopped when war broke out in June 1990

  • 5
    1

    Asanga…” The LTTE bombed the Yal Devi train at Kokavil on 19 January 1985 killing 34 people”

    Hello Asanga you have conviniently ignored the facts that during every race riots since 1948 the Sinhala mobs stop the yarl devi on its way to Jaffna with Tamil fleeing to their homeland, and masscre every single Tamil Childlren, prgenant others, old men and women.

    dont just write half baked articles….

    • 1
      1

      @Rajash your totally and factually wrong when you say

      “during every race riots since 1948 the Sinhala mobs stop the yarl devi on its way to Jaffna with Tamil fleeing to their homeland, and masscre every single Tamil Childlren, prgenant others, old men and women”

      thats not true,many times the train was looted and people attacked but to say every Tamil was killed is a lie

      • 0
        0

        I think you got the point.

    • 1
      1

      Rajash

      “the Sinhala mobs stop the yarl devi on its way to Jaffna with Tamil fleeing to their homeland, and masscre every single Tamil Childlren, prgenant others, old men and women.”

      You are learning too much from Banda, OTC, Mechanic, Lal loo, Nuisance, sach, wathie, Taraki, Ramu, ………. etc.

      Please unlearn.

      • 0
        0

        Hi Native
        not meant to mislead..but rather trying to make a point

        I agree with Pecae lovers version :)

  • 1
    0

    “The LTTE bombed the Yal Devi train at Kokavil on 19 January 1985 killing 34 people and destroying train tracks, which disrupted connectivity. “

    Is this authentic?????

    • 2
      0

      @Pacs, yes it was bombed but it was done by TELO. I heard the casualties were around 200 soldiers and sadly some civilians. TELO blowing it up was a fact and still is, but the number is heresy. Major operations with very heavy casualties were conducted by TELO, thus it was wiped out by the LTTE as TELO became way too popular for the LTTE to handle. Chavakacheri police station was attacked and razed to the ground in 1984 by the TELO as well. The army reinforcements were completely destroyed by them to from 3 different routes.

  • 5
    1

    Pacs

    Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) blew up the mail train at Koddikamam station.

    LTTE had no connection with this ambush whatsoever. Almost all civilian passengers were ordered to alight at the previous station by members of TELO according to my Elders. It was not Yarl Devi but Mail Train.

    The author simply copied and pasted what was on Wikipedia without further factcheck.

    • 1
      0

      @ Native Veda,its not kodikaman but after Murugandi that the train was bombed

  • 3
    0

    Asanga the title of your article says it all

    “Connecting Sri Lanka:Train to Jaffana”

    what Sri Lanka need is “Connecting Sri Lankans” Sri Lankans of all rce, religion and ethnicity

    Connecting Sri Lanka is what the govt is doing with its infrastructure project,,,,unfortunately the infrastructure is not taking the prople any where

  • 0
    0

    I believe that the main reason for the frictions between the North and the South is the lack of opportunity for the two sides to meet face to face. As the first Chairman of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority of the North, I organized tours for groups from the North to come down South and meet their countrymen. The first to come was a group of school children who had come on top at the AL exam. When the participants arrived by boat at Trincomalee, they looked tense and scared. Little wonder as they were not sure what the reaction of the LTTE would be and they were about to meet a people painted to them as a despicable lot. But they relaxed as they were taken round right down to Kataragama, meeting their counterparts and visiting the Parliament, civil society institutions, sites of historical interest, places of worship and courts of law. The reception the children received was so warm that they had confessed to a Tamil assistant of mine that they were surprised to find that the Sinhalese were such a friendly and hospitable people, thus echoing my own impression after I arrived in Jaffna as a public servant in 1956. The ‘Yarldevi’ is now providing unlimited opportunities for people in the North and the South to discover each other. What is missing is a plan of purposeful action to utilize the massive opportunity for integration, created by the expensive investment on the rail track to Jaffna.

    • 0
      0

      Mr.Gunadheera,

      There were trains running even from before independence to when the LTTE dismantled the tracks in the 1990’s. I is during this period that the human tracks gradually began to diverge and made it increasingy difficult for the communities to commune. It is not the train that will make the difference, but the hearts and minds of those who rule us and harvest the honey from disturbing the beehive! The consequences are what we have experienced and now increasingly se around us.

      It is time those like you-enlightened men- call a spade a spade.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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