Stating that the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka witnessed virtually no development or growth while under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka’s Home Affairs Minister Sarath Amunugama on Monday declared that a large chunk of this year’s budget would be allocated to these regions to give a major impetus to developmental activity.

“The government has taken a policy decision to invest largely in the Northern and Eastern provinces. It is only fair that we do that, because there has been no growth there for three decades,” Mr. Amunugama told the World Economic Forum India Summit here.

Participating in an interactive session on the “Next Chapter of Sri Lanka’s Growth,” he said the government was more than committed to helping the regions catch up with the development in other parts of the island nation, as the war with the LTTE successfully ended in May and the “terrorist outfit” stood eliminated.

On the political front, he said the Sri Lankan government would implement the 13th Constitutional Amendment, that would make Tamil an official language and English a link language, apart from providing for establishment of provincial councils, fully and faithfully.

“There cannot be two levels of citizenship in Sri Lanka, just as there cannot be two citizenships in India. The 13th Amendment follows the Indian example. Our commitment is absolute. I assure you, this battle was with the LTTE and not against the Tamil people. Sri Lanka has to be a fair country.”

Mr. Amunugama said the Northern and Eastern provinces were not integrated with the general growth pattern of the rest of Sri Lanka for long and this situation needed to be changed.

He said it would be in the best interests of Sri Lanka to work with India, which was the dominant partner in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to achieve the targeted growth of 8 per cent for the next two years. However, he said the country could use models of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for this.

“We need to work closely with India and the priority will be to work with the Asian giant and make best use of the opportunity to expand relations with ASEAN. India is a growing economy and, as a neighbour, we could benefit with our strength lying in services. We have to use the Indian economic growth for our own development,” he stated.

India would play an important role in the growth as it became a world economic power. The growth would help Sri Lanka too. “We have to ride piggyback on Indian growth. Then we will be doing well. Sri Lanka was the first in South Asia to break into a free trade market. Even India was throwing envious glances at the growth of Sri Lanka,” he added.

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