A home-grown solution is what President Mahinda Rajapaksa offered to the long drawn conflict in this country after assuming office. That is, it would be a locally or indigenously worked out solution which would not necessarily conform to the formulae which have been hitherto worked out particularly on the basis of foreign inputs. In other words, Mahinda Chinthana would be the foundation of this solution.
Accordingly, the shape and substance of this solution could not be predetermined and prefigured, because it is unlikely to be akin to any of the solutions which have been bandied around over the years and which have been found to be adequate for problems of this kind in other countries but not necessarily for ours. However, the bare outlines of how the problem in Sri Lanka is going to be resolved are already making themselves visible and one could see that typically down-to-earth common sense and practical wisdom are being applied.
The reason why our solution needs to be home-grown has been outlined by the President. This conflict had been of 30 years duration and had acquired a complexity which is not at all easy to pin down. Its contortions and dimensions are such that it is not amenable to simple-minded solutions. Above all, it is only those who have lived through the horrors of this turmoil who are best suited to figure out a solution to this conflict and particularly not those who are seeing it from outside .
One could observe that without any fanfare and fuss, more and more money is being channeled into the North-East economy. We have it on the authority of Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal that over Rs. 250 billion has been siphoned to the North alone for development purposes. Likewise, Rs. 116,000 million has been already spent on development in the East over the period, 2006-2010. The funds allocated for the East for development this year stand at Rs. 26,611 million.
The Mahinda Chinthana or thinking thus manifests itself in clear terms. At bottom, it was a glaring lack of development that led to the separatist rebellion in the North-East. Tamil grievances were, essentially, based on the perception that the North-East was left out in the development process. Besides, there was a lack of opportunities for advancement for these sections of the population in the rest of the economy. Of course, the rebellion compounded the problems of the North-East in that the conditions in these regions precluded the possibility of developing them on a sustained basis. For example, during the tenure of the J.R. Jayewardene administration we had a District Minister for Jaffna, but it is an open question whether anything by way of development could have been initiated in the district in those troubled years.
Now that the terror menace has been wiped out, the path has been paved for a sustained development effort in the North-East and the state is, very rightly, focusing on this ambitious project, which, we hope, would bear fruit.
The thinking behind these timely initiatives is crystal clear and very intelligible - so intelligible that one does not need to have any special knowledge of the discipline of economics to understand it. If frustration over a lack of jobs and other essential requirements led to a youth rebellion, then, the way out of it is a provision of these needs, and development is the key avenue to the supply of these requirements. A dynamic development drive is the answer to the frustrations of the North-East people and herein we have the answer to our problems.
Nothing could be simpler to comprehend. If the lack of a livelihood and the feeling that they were discriminated against, drove some among the North-East youth to take up arms against the state, one of the most effective ways of removing such frustration and disenchantment is to give them those ways of improving their lives and to make life worth living for them. There is absolutely no need to split hairs over solutions of this kind but to go ahead and implement them and this is what the well meaning hope is happening.
But as we have time and again pointed out, there is a huge difference between economic growth and development and it must be ensured that what is finally achieved is development. That is, growth plus equity. It is equity or the equal distribution of prosperity that will usher in development and not the mere churning-out of goods and services, which growth alone accounts for.
We hardly need to stress that Sri Lanka is facing a challenge in the form of convincing some sections of the international community that she is meaning well by all her communities. In the development effort in the North-East, we have the proof that this is so. Such achievements need to be showcased to the rest of the world without delay.