COLOMBO: The World Bank has identified Jaffna as one of the strategic cities in Sri Lanka and has given a soft loan of US$ 55 million for its infrastructural development. The loan is repayable in 25 years with a grace period of five years.
“It’s a godsend,” said M.A.Sumanthiran, Jaffna district MP and spokesman of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which dominates the Northern Provincial Council (NPC).
“Since the end of the war, Jaffna city has developed in a haphazard way. If this continues, many problems will crop up in the future. Jaffna already faces vehicular congestion and accidents are not uncommon. What we need is planned development and the World Bank’s decision to take Jaffna as a strategic city will enable such development,” Sumanthiran told Express here on Friday.
The World Bank is funding a similar project in the southern most city of Galle and the Central Lankan city of Kandy.
According to World Bank Country Director Francoise Clottes, Jaffna is a rapidly growing city with economic potential. An improved urban environment will facilitate its growth. A significant feature of the World Bank project is the wide consultation it is based on. Jaffna’s citizenry and its leaders were consulted at a meeting presided over by Governor Reginold Cooray, recently.
Although Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran boycotted the meeting saying that he had not been consulted before calling for it, 8 NPC members from the area and TNA MPs from Jaffna district attended. While welcoming the project, members of the civil society emphasized the need to preserve the culture of the city.
The project will be executed by the Ministry of Megapolis of the Lankan government. And according to a World Bank specialist and team leader of the project, Zhiyu Jerry Chen, a City Stakeholder Forum will meet periodically to liaise with citizens.
TNA spokesman Sumanthiran said while supporting the Jaffna modernization project, the party will continue to fight for the return of civilian lands by the Lankan military.
In Jaffna alone more than 6,000 acres are held by the military. TNA MP Mavai Senathirajah said on Thursday, that civilian lands in Myliddy are not being returned on the specious plea that there is a military armory there. “Seven years after the war ended, what is the need for keeping an armory in Myliddy?” Senathirajah asked.