Northern temples and schools now being occupied by security forces are to be vacated soon with Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe making available Rs. 25 million for the setting up of small camps in the wake of his two-day peace mission to the north.
The Jaffna community appealed to the premier to ensure the smooth functioning of schools and to improve hostel facilities of the Jaffna University when he met a group of public servants at the Jaffna Kachcheri last Thursday. The Premier appealed for understanding of the general public, as the security forces have to build new camps within a stipulated time before moving out.
At the meeting, the officials made representations rega-rding housing, land, education, infrastructure, power supply, transport, agri-wells and urged the launching of a massive rehabilitation programme in the north.
Meanwhile, it is learned that the government has instructed the immediate reconstruction of the Kandy-Jaffna main supply route, known as the A-9 road for early reopening. The Premier reiterated that in terms of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the LTTE, once the repair work was completed, the road would be reopened so that there would not be any problems relating to inadequate supplies to the peninsula.
In this backdrop, the government is to shortly launch an ambitious three-phased development project. Under the first phase, all agri-wells, bridges and tanks would be rehabilitated to assist farming activities that were neglected during the long years of conflict.
Welcoming the development plans for the north, TULF Vice President V. Anandasangari said the people of Jaffna had once been prosperous farmers, traders, fishermen or businessmen. "Overnight they were rendered penniless and today they were worse than beggars. This journey is not an easy one after twenty years of darkness and denial. But we are all committed to going on this path," he said.
Mr. Anandasangari has also requested the government to increase Rs. 1,300 paid to a refugee family of five by three fold, taking into consideration the cost of living, specially in the peninsula.
Ranjith Jayasundera in Kilinochchi
After many years the Central College of Kilinochchi, one of the biggest schools in the district has been re-opened on a regular basis as the fighting between the Tamil rebels and the security forces no longer disrupts school activities.
The school housed in a two storied building has been badly damaged by the fighting between the two sides. Parts of it are also situated in a compound infested with mines. Recently a student's leg was blown off due to a Johnny mine explosion.
The LTTE sent its cadres to clear the area after the incident, but students still feel the area is not clear of the deadly mines.
To continue the functions of the school the students, parents along with the teachers have put up cadjan huts within the damaged building and use them as class rooms. In the absence of desks and chairs they sit on the ground to But on rainy days the students are not in a position to use the class rooms as they get flooded.
Neither the Education Department nor the parents of these students have the financial resources to restore the building but there are classes upto Advanced Level in the Science and Commerce fields. School activities have been regularly interrupted due to fighting and shortage of staff.
Despite the shortcomings four students were selected to the Physical Science section,four to the Agricultural faculty and two to the Engineering faculty.
"We face many difficulties and we don't have the advantage of tuition classes like in many other parts of the country," K.Jeyanth, an AL student said.
The Principal of the School N. Selvaratnam told The Sunday Times that the school which began in 1973 has regularly seen its students entering the University every year, but with an increase of facilities they would be able to show better results.
By Faraza Farook
Hospitals in the North are suffering from an acute shortage of staff while retired persons who are re-employed are refusing to work if their pensions are frozen, health authorities said.
While the requirement of staff for hospitals and other health institutions had increased and had to be revised, statistics showed that the available staff was below the approved cadre.
At the Jaffna General Hospital, of 26 intern medical officers who are required to join this year, only five have agreed to work at the hospital. The hospital's cadre requirement for physicians stands at three while there is only one physician and though three surgeons are required, only one was available, Director Dr. Navamalar Kanakaratnam said.
A similar situation existed in the Wanni where the staff shortage was one of the main problems that needed to be addressed. "There are only a few medical officers and a big shortage of RMOs, pharmacists and medical laboratory technicians (MLTs)," Dr. (Mrs.) S. Yoganathan, Deputy Provincial Director of Health for Vavuniya said.
"One MLT has already left because his pension would be frozen," Dr. Yoganathan said adding that she will be losing three officers this month due to this problem.
In the Kilinochchi district, the approved cadre for nurses was half the requirement with only 10 in-position out of the 42 approved while the health institutions were in need of 84 nurses.
Meanwhile the MOH offices in the Kilinochchi and Punahari AGA. Divisions were functioning without a Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Yoganathan said. The Central Dispensary and Maternity Home (CD & MH) at Veravil which is functioning under a retired Registered Medical Officer (RMO) is likely to stop his services if his contract is not renewed which would invariably inconvenience patients with no hospital in close proximity.
Only the OPD of the Mullaitivu District hospital, which is housed temporarily in another building, is functioning. The work is overlooked by a RMP who will discontinue his services if his pension is frozen .
The CD & MH at Kandavala along the Paranthan-Mullaitivu Road too is facing the threat of closure due to the absence of an RMO.
With more and more retired staff expressing unwillingness to be re-employed because pensions were being frozen, health institutions in the North will be crippled if measures are not taken to fill the cadre requirement, she warned.