The government is likely to put on hold a donor forum on funding development projects in the east following a general reluctance particularly by European countries to provide new project aid, diplomatic sources said. Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera with whom some multilateral donors have had initial contact on the convening of a development forum, could not be reached for confirmation as his secretary said he preferred not to speak to the media because he was often misquoted.
Diplomatic sources said the government had been considering a donor meeting in September to discuss eastern development but the Rs. 1.8 billion plan was now on hold because many donors had expressed reluctance or reservations.
They said European Union countries, especially, were not in favour of getting involved in giving aid now as it might be interpreted as endorsing or condoning the continuing human rights violations and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. But officially the EU is taking up a different position.
An official of the European Commission`s Colombo office said they might consider government requests for aid connected to the new development plan for the east.
`We are unaware of any development forum being organised but we will consider any request for new funding,` said Guy Platoon, Charge d`Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission in Colombo.
Asked whether EU countries were reluctant to fund new projects in the east, Mr. Platoon said `I`m afraid I can`t speak for other donor countries. I can only give the EC position.`
Earlier in the week the Treasury`s Deputy Secretary, Sumith Abeysinghe said a blueprint for a proposed development forum for the east was being prepared and would be put on a fast track following the military victory in Toppigala. He said Dr. Jayasundera was supervising the development plan including infrastructure and resettlement.
Mr. Abeysinghe said he hoped that various projects would be undertaken by donor agencies such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).
The ADB`s Colombo office Deputy Director Laurence Pochard said the bank had regular ongoing programmes in the north-east and he did not think it would be giving any different budgets and programmes for the east.
World Bank Country Director Naoko Ishii said the bank had not been informed of a development forum for the east and decisions regarding future assistance to the entire country were being made under a new country assistance strategy (CAS) that would cover the next three to four years.
`As part of this programme, we are considering concrete programmes to provide additional support to conflict-affected areas,` she said in email comments sent to The Sunday Times.
She said the bank would continue to consult with a wide variety of stakeholders?including the poor and vulnerable in conflict-affected areas?to help ensure that its assistance was appropriately targeted and sufficiently sensitive to the many complexities surrounding the conflict.
According to initial estimates, some Rs. 1,800 million was needed for the projects on reconstruction of roads, irrigation schemes and electricity plants among others.