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Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 06.26 GMT
There is no more the blanket of darkness in Jaffna

 

Post-war Jaffna is very different from what it used to be. There is no more the blanket of darkness. There are no checkpoints, the physical presence of the Army more discreet now. Shops are open late into the night and people are out on the streets at all hours. In place of the ubiquitous bicycles and the old Morris cars that ran on kerosene, defying the petrol blockade, all manner of vehicles now clog the streets, states Nirupama Subramanian and R. K Radhakrishnan in an Op-Ed published by The Hindu on rebuilding efforts in the North.

“My belief is that to have peace, you have to develop the economy. What we should do is create jobs, create grassroots industry,” said hotelier Thilak Thiagarajah who divides his time between Jaffna and his large suburban home in Chigwell outside London.

“I want to show that Tamils can make it work in Jaffna,” he said.

The local economy is made up mainly of retail trading. Agriculture and fishing are picking up slowly as people return to their homes. In Achuveli, which boasts Jaffna’s famed fertile red soil, farmers who have regained possession of their lands from the security forces are growing vegetables and fruits for the local market.

Spiralling property prices in Jaffna, and the construction activity all over the peninsula provide a more optimistic picture. Everywhere, people with means – which in Jaffna means those with relatives abroad who send them money — are repairing properties that were damaged, abandoned and fell into disuse during the years of conflict. Malls and other commercial buildings are coming up.

Here are some excerpts from this Op-Ed.

Pavalochini and her husband Ravikumar make a living selling bicycles. They sell them for Rs.49 a kg, for scrap is what the bikes are: rusted, twisted, bent out of shape, the tyres long gone after three years out under the scorching sun at the “bicycle graveyard” near Mullaithivu.

From their home in the Konapulam camp for the displaced in Valigamam, Ravikumar sets out once or twice a week on the 95-km journey to the graveyard.

There, Pavalochini said, he goes about collecting every scrap of metal left behind by civilians and the LTTE as they retreated stage by stage to a narrow strip of land in Mullaithivu in the final stages of the war in 2009.

“There are some Muslim dealers who buy these cycles for Rs.49 per kg,” said Pavalochini, as we sit talking in the shade of a mountain of bicycles in her front yard. “It might fetch Rs.65 a kg if we took it to Colombo and sold it ourselves in the scrap market, but think of the transporting costs.”

Post-war Jaffna is very different from what it used to be. For one, there is no more the blanket of darkness and fear that used to fall at night.

THE HOTELIER

There are no checkpoints, the physical presence of the Army more discreet now. Shops are open late into the night and people are out on the streets at all hours. In place of the ubiquitous bicycles and the old Morris cars that ran on kerosene, defying the petrol blockade, all manner of vehicles now clog the streets.

Among the changes is a large hotel opposite Duraiappah stadium. The owner, Thilak Thiagarajah, is perhaps the biggest private investor in Jaffna today. Mr. Thiagarajah left Jaffna when he was 17 years old, and is a realtor in the United Kingdom.

His 42-room hotel, Tilko — named after himself and his wife Kokila — is a symbol of the hope, at least his, that Jaffna will regain what Tamils like to call its “lost glory.”

“My belief is that to have peace, you have to develop the economy. What we should do is create jobs, create grassroots industry,” said the 56-year-old hotelier, who divides his time between Jaffna and his large suburban home in Chigwell outside London where his chartered accountant wife and two children live.

“I want to show that Tamils can make it work in Jaffna,” he said.

The local economy is made up mainly of retail trading. Agriculture and fishing are picking up slowly as people return to their homes. In Achuveli, which boasts Jaffna’s famed fertile red soil, farmers who have regained possession of their lands from the security forces are growing vegetables and fruits for the local market.

Spiralling property prices in Jaffna, and the construction activity all over the peninsula provide a more optimistic picture. Everywhere, people with means – which in Jaffna means those with relatives abroad who send them money — are repairing properties that were damaged, abandoned and fell into disuse during the years of conflict. Malls and other commercial buildings are coming up.

The thick construction dust over Jaffna, however, is from road construction: armed with $423.9 m from China’s Exim Bank, the government’s Northern Road Rehabilitation Project is building 512 km of roads in the Northern Province.

Already, the A9 highway that connects southern Sri Lanka to the northern peninsula, has been refurbished. Once known as the “highway of blood” for the deadly battles over it between the LTTE and the security forces, it now eases the passage of goods and traders between Colombo and Jaffna.








 

 
 
   
   
     
   
   

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Last modified: October 30, 2012.

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