In spite of LTTE efforts to influence the EU against Sri Lanka over accountability issues, the Sri Lankan government receives substantial support from the 27-member grouping for post-war recovery projects. Since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the EU has launched new projects to empower the people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, with special emphasis on food security and nutrition in the Eastern Province.
Government sources told The Island that the EU support had been crucial and the country was thankful for its continuing support, though suspension of GSP plus trade concessions, over alleged war excesses committed by the Sri Lankan military, remained a sour point in EU-Sri Lanka relations.
A spokesperson for the EU mission in Colombo said that over 30,000 families in the Eastern Province would benefit from a project funded to the tune of Rs. 862 million in line with the ongoing two-year food facility programme. The majority of the beneficiaries were those affected by heavy floods in 2010 and 2011.
The official said that the recipients had been provided with seed paddy, vegetable seeds, fruit plants, fertilizer, chicks and other livestock et al. Under the programme, training is also provided to farmers and agricultural staff too.
Rehabilitation of abandoned land and irrigation tanks, with the participation of the beneficiaries, too, had been an important element in the overall project, the official said. The end of the conflict had paved the way for the preparation of land not used during the war for cultivation, the official said, adding, “In addition, irrigation and drainage channels are being rehabilitated and structures reconstructed.
According to the EU, under the Food Facility programme, 55 irrigation tanks had been rehabilitated in Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts.
The project is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in close coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and the department of Agriculture, the Department of Animal Production and Health and the Department of Agrarian Development, Provincial and Central Irrigation.
Government sources said that resettled communities had benefited from EU funded projects, which were an integral part of the accelerated development projects in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Responding to a query, a senior official said that rapid transformation of the two Provinces had helped the government to counter LTTE propaganda efforts directed at Sri Lanka. Although the LTTE and some Tamil speaking politicians had alleged that normalcy hadn’t returned in spite of the absence of war, the ground situation was different, with some of those who had sought refuge in India returning to the country. The official said that the bottom line was that the success of the post-war recovery programme had exposed those still pursuing the LTTE’s eelam project.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) nearly 5,900 Sri Lankan Tamils, registered as refugees in India, had returned to the Northern Province since the end of the conflict in 2009, but an estimated 73,210 remain.