|Thursday, 13 February 2003|
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Towards a caring State
The news that the Vocational Training Authority of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Bank of Ceylon and some private sector institutions would be launching programs in the North for the enhancement of the job skills of the region's youths, should be warmly welcomed. Among other things, this is evidence that the State is acting in a spirit of caring for the alleviation of the socio-economic pressures of the North, thus continuing to play an important integrationist role in the affairs of the communities.
It is now common knowledge that high youth unemployment in the North-East contributed significantly towards the aggravation of the ethnic conflict. The conduct of the country's administration in principally Sinhala and the inability of many qualified Tamil youths to gain university admission over the years, led to a growing sense of alienation among the minorities.
It is now recognized that these were important turning points in the National Question. They facilitated the emergence of the violent secessionist movement in the North-East. Unemployed youths formed the principal cadres of these militant organizations. The lack of employment opportunities coupled with an acute sense of hopelessness among the North-East Youths constituted an important mainspring of the North-East secessionist movement.
A virtual hands-off position in regard to the North, on the part of successive governments, helped in feeding the insurrectionist movement and the push for separation. The crux of the problem was that the State came to be seen, over the years, as being more concerned with the South rather than being representative of the whole country and all its communities. This perception too helped in fuelling the violent secessionist movement in the North.
An important task for the present and future is to change this image of the State as being mainly Southern-centric, now that an earnest effort is being made to bring peace to the country. In fact, the image of the State as a dispenser of justice to all, would help in defusing the disaffection which has accumulated in the North-East over the decades.
Seen from this point of view, the collaborative venture launched by the Vocational Training Authority of Sri Lanka for the fostering of vocational and employment skills among the Northern youths, is most laudable and welcome. As mentioned before, it would help in establishing the caring nature of the State and emphasize its national character. The project could be counted as an important confidence building measure in the national integration program of the State.
The creation of a multi-ethnic State should be our aim but State intervention for the furthering of the material well-being of the people of the North-East, would help in establishing the ground work for the fostering of multi-ethnicity and national integration.
With the resuscitation of the North-East economy, more and more job opportunities could be expected to materialize in the region. Needless to say, these opportunities could be seized by only those endowed with the relevant job skills. There is bound to be a great demand for small and medium scale entrepreneurs, besides skilled technical hands and mechanics. Those sufficiently qualified to pursue professions demanding higher studies, should also be provided the necessary opportunities to do so.
The State must make up for lost time by going to the assistance of these job seekers of the North-East. They need to feel at home in Sri Lanka.
Produced by Lake House