Development, Economy, Human Rights, Human Security, Identity, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War, Reconciliation

Ground realities in Jaffna and its environs: Two key perspectives

From the psycho-social trauma and destruction of the social fabric in Jaffna after close upon three decades of brutal war to the challenges of post-war development, entrepreneurship and economic revival, these two interviews focus on two leading Tamil civil society activists who have lived in Jaffna from when the war was still raging.

Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan is the Principal Researcher at the Point Pedro Institute of Development and author of three well read articles on Groundviews. Our conversation was pegged to the socio-economic aspects of post-war scenarios in the North and East. Dr. Sarvananthan’s key ideas for post-war development are captured in SL Govt monopoly impeding economic revival in NE and forestalling private entrepreneurship, an article published in April in the Tamil National. In this scathing critique, he points to a number of problems with the Government’s misguided approach to development in and around the North and ends with a novel idea to kick-start sustainable local entrepreneurship in the region. These are points raised and discussed in detail.

The conversation with Sherine Xavier, an activist born and now living in Jaffna looks at life in the city after the end of war. Sherine returned to Jaffna around 3 years ago, and talks about memories of growing up in Jaffna, comparing it with the social fabric post-war.

We talk about the persistent levels of violence and trauma in and around Jaffna as flagged earlier by Shanthi Sachithananthan, the Chairperson of Viluthu, appearing on the same interview series. Sherine also touches on aspects of economic development in the region, and clearly notes that plans by the central government drawn up and enacted with piecemeal consultation with the local population stand little chance of success over the long-term. Given her time in the diaspora, Sherine also talks about the politics of diaspora engagement with post-war Sri Lanka, the perception of the hordes from the South who visit the peninsula with little sensitivity over, inter alia, the lasting trauma and scars of war and related to this, the key challenges facing reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

She repeatedly spoke of those in Jaffna as a resilient peoples, and I asked her at the end to speak about the well-spring of hope guiding her own work and life in Jaffna.