A special meeting of the Sri Lankan Cabinet, chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, held at Kilinochchi town in the northern province has approved an emergency loan of $150 million from Asian Development Bank (ADB) for re-construction of the damaged power and water infrastructure in the northern and eastern provinces.

Briefing the media here on Thursday on the decisions taken by the meeting held at the de facto political capital of the LTTE till early 2009, Cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said the loan from the ADB would be provided to the Electricity Board and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board for reconstruction of the damaged assets in the Northern Province.

Explaining the decision to hold a Cabinet meeting in Kilinochchi, Mr. Rambukwella said it was a signal of the unity of the island nation and the comprehensive military defeat of the Tigers.

“There is criticism from quarters that it is an extravagant exercise. However, it is far from the truth. The idea of these meetings to be held in different parts of the island nation is to closely identify important issues pertaining to the people and find solutions. Kilinochichi meeting is particularly significant since the then leader of the LTTE Thamilchelvan had identified the town as the capital of the dream Eelam state.”

While refusing to elaborate on the costs involved in holding the meeting, Mr. Rambukwella said the people of the region were clearly happy over the decision of the government to move closer to them. Kilinochchi was chosen as the first town for the Cabinet meetings to be held outside the national capital periodically.

Mr. Rambukwella said the Cabinet had approved the proposal to reconstruct the 50-km-long A-34 high way from Mankulam to Mullaithivu Road under the Northern Road Connectivity Project with ADB assistance.

The meeting also approved a pact with CETC International Co Ld, a state-owned Chinese company, for upgrading and improving healthcare facilities in Northern and Eastern Provinces.

A National Mine Action Centre to coordinate removal of an estimated 1.5 million mines buried in 3,000 sq.km. of the Northern Province would be created. Mr. Rambukwella said the presence of mines was a major stumbling block in re-settlement of the war displaced and the government has so far been able to remove only 20 per cent of the mines.

It was also decided to bring the prices of petroleum products sold in the northern province on a par with the prices in the rest of the nation and the government would absorb the additional costs in transportation of the products.

The other projects approved include reconstruction of the northern railway line's signalling and telecommunication system to be executed by the Indian Railway Construction International Ltd. and rebuilding of the seed farms at Murunkan in Mannar district and Paranthan in Kilinochchi district.

Meanwhile, the External Affairs Ministry in a statement said Sri Lanka had been removed from all marine war and marine strikes risk of the Joint Cargo Committee Joint Cargo Watch List. The “Ground Risk of 2.6” (High Level) previously applicable for the entire ground in Sri Lanka was now confined only to the Vavuniya-Jaffna Section of the A-9 Highway.

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