Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made an astounding speech in Parliament on Saturday (12) on the pathetic state of war widows in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Since the civil war ended in 2009, the plight of war widows, the majority of whom are sole breadwinners was highlighted with statistics and several civil society organizations also launched campaigns to find solutions to solve their untold grievances.
However, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during his budget speech last Saturday, focused on the plight of war widows in the North and the East.
A latest survey in the North and the East has revealed that more than eighty-thousand war widows lived in the two provinces without proper livelihood support and the pathetic part of it is that the majority of them remain sole breadwinners.
Since the war came to an end in 2009, the previous regime had focused on restructuring infrastructure in the North and the East. But there was hardly any move to address the humanitarian issues of civilians affected directly by the war. These innocent civilians particularly war widows, orphans disabled persons and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are largely living in a state of neglect without proper livelihood assistance or a roof above their heads to lead a secure life.
As far as the misery created by the three decades of civil war is concerned, humanitarian issues remain a common phenomenon not only in the North and the East but also in the entire country.
Last week’s protest in Colombo by disabled soldiers, demanding a pension hike, has clearly indicated the unresolved post-war humanitarian issues which haunt the whole country. Even in other parts of the country thousands of women have become war widows with children in their thousands orphaned.
Therefore, paying due attention to these adverse effects of war beginning from the North and the East by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, is appreciative and timely before these humanitarian issues turn into enormous social problems.
Reports from the North and the East indicate that to support families war widows living below the poverty line, have even stooped to engaging in various anti-social activities.
It is important to note that Vietnam was faced with enormous humanitarian problems at the end of its long-lasting war in the country. However, the South East Asian country now remains exemplary in overcoming its social problems and blossomed as a healthy economy in recent years.
In the past one year, the present government handling post-war issues in the North in comparison to the Rajapaksa regime is praiseworthy. Several core issues such as releasing lands, resettling IDPs and building new houses for those who resettled in their original places have been handled without leaving room for delay and postponement.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have prioritized relief measures for victims of the war since the government was formed in January last year.
The Prime Minister in his speech in Parliament, last Saturday, has also pointed out the plans to be worked out by the government to assist not only war widows, but also ex-militant cadres.
Realizing the potential of Jaffna’s natural resources such as its coastal areas and beaches the Prime Minister also announced that new investments would be encouraged to develop the tourist sector in the North.
The recent incidents in the North have clearly outlined the volatile situation which presently prevails in the province.
So the Prime Minister’s concerns over settling the humanitarian issues in the North and the East, will lead to winning the hearts and minds of the people in the two provinces, while erasing the scars of war.