John McCarthy, Special Envoy of Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, paid a courtesy call on Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development on 13 September 2011 at the Ministry of Economic Development. At the discussion Minister Rajapaksa gave a very comprehensive briefing on the government economic development programmes and Northern and the Eastern Reawakening programmes initiated by the Government.
He elaborated on the infrastructure development that has commenced such as reconstruction of the road network, schools, hospitals etc., the railway line Uthuru Mithuru, Kankasanthurai harbour, airport runway being completed, commencement of work on the A-9 Expressway work, providing drinking water facilities etc.
On resettlement, the Minister reiterated that by 31 December 2011 resettlement will be completed. He reiterated that the basic infrastructure is being provided by the Government for resettlement of internally displaced, while housing is being facilitated by owner-driven programmes with the assistance of the NGO sector.
The Minister also pointed that Tamil Nadu refugees have commenced arriving in Sri Lanka particularly after the commencement of the ferry services.
In his discussion Minister also highlighted that apart from resettlement and reconstruction the Government has taken measures to initiate a political reconciliation process in fulfilling the political empowerment of the people in the North and the East
Firstly in establishing democratic governance, the Minister emphasised on the holding of Local Government elections. Apart from this process he also spoke of the other social network programmes that have been launched in strengthening interactions amongst the farmer community and other interactive programmes.
The Minister also thanked the Australian Envoy for the ODA assistance given to Sri Lanka particularly through the AUSaid programme and it was noted that Australia’s contribution towards the infrastructure development in particularly the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka were much appreciated i.e. reconstruction of schools, housing, health, water supply etc.
The Special envoy indicated that Sri Lanka had made substantial progress on resettlement and infrastructure development and it was timely that Sri Lanka made concrete moves to project it to the international community.
He said these achievements have not been highlighted adequately in the international fora.
Kathy Klugman, Australian High Commissioner in Colombo was also associated at this meeting.