An agreement was finalised yesterday between the Government, the European Union and the United States to extend the southern highway up to Batticaloa.
The highway originally meant to reach only up to Matara, will be extended to Batticaloa by a EU-US joint venture, Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said at a Sri Lanka Foundation Institute workshop held yesterday.
The workshop was on improving coordination between the Government and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in post-tsunami reconstruction.
Minister Kadirgamar met European Union representatives in the morning where they had reached the agreement. Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama who was present at the venue confirmed the deal.
Minister Amunugama said the government expected to enter into a solid relationship with donors and NGOs in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase, and said the government was `grateful` to the NGOs assisting in post-tsunami rehabilitation. `For the reconstruction phase, we will have to depend on donors and NGOs to implement the plans put before the country,` he said.
`Though some media criticized NGOs, I have to say that we are grateful for the work done by them and recognise the role played by them. Our government is committed to listening to their ideas and including them in the plans,` he said.
He said meetings with NGOs would promote better future coordination.
Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Tara de Mel and TAFREN Chairman Mano Tittawella said most of the MoUs with donors relating to education and health sector reconstruction had been finalised and that other agreements would be signed on other sectors by the end of March and April. The Indian government was studying the Railway sector development, he said.
Mr. Tittawalla said the final damage assessment report would be completed by March 15, when the actual implementation phase could begin.
A Cabinet proposal had been submitted to extend the mandate of TAFREN for five more years through an act of Parliament.
Dr. de Mel said hey had found donors to all the tsunami-damaged schools but not for the four partially damaged universities. The need to remove any inequity in schools after the reconstruction was emphasized by Dr. de Mel, as the schools put up by donors would be of very high standards compared to the rest of the country.
The government has taken into consideration the needs of the differently-abled in the construction of new townships and schools, Dr. de Mel said.