The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the development arm of the U.S. government, has taken up two programmes to strengthen the ability of local officials in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka to ensure an effective administration.

An announcement by the U.S. mission here said the two programmes reached over 90 per cent of local authorities in the Eastern Province, providing them with the skills to better plan, prioritise and budget local projects.

Rebecca Cohn, USAID Mission Director, said: “It is important that local leaders be well prepared to meet the challenges of managing complex development activities in the Eastern Province”.

“USAID is pleased that our assistance has provided 100 elected officials and staff from 36 Pradesheeya Sabhas and one urban council with new skills. Our hope is that this training will translate into improved services for local communities and stronger development results from better management of limited resources.”

Separately, the government announced it had completely resettled the displaced families housed in the welfare camps in the Eastern Province.

Parts of the Eastern Province were wrested from the LTTE by the Sri Lanka forces by the middle of 2007 and elections were held for the first time in May 2008 to the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC). The ruling combine in alliance with TMVP led by Sivanesathuran Chandrakanthan alias Pillian won the election.

A statement from the government said as the final stage, 91 families of the Kokuvil welfare village were resettled in Trincomalee district on Tuesday.

There were 112 IDP camps in the Eastern Province housing over 35,000 families. The government noted that all the families in these camps were now leading normal lives in their original places of living.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Sri Lanka Press Council Somaratne Balasooriya refuted allegations by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that the government violated media freedom by effecting the Sri Lanka Press Council laws.

In response to this statement, Professor Balasooriya said the Sri Lanka Press Council had not taken any legal action against media personnel since 1973. The council had received 2,010 complaints so far and had solved them mutually, he said.

In another development, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said that SBS breached broadcasting rules when it aired two episodes of the Tamil Language Programme biased in favour of the LTTE.

According to reports, both the episodes dealt with the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

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