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Sri Lanka emerging from the darkness of war

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 7 February 2013


Last week, with my parliamentary colleagues Scott Morrison and Michael Keenan, I visited Sri Lanka.

The first part of our itinerary was organised by the Tamil National Alliance, the second by the Australian High Commission and the final part by the Sri Lankan government.

We were free to travel wherever we chose and meet with whomever we wished – in Colombo, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee.

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It is clear that Sri Lanka is making huge strides in its efforts to rebuild its economy, society and communities after the May 2009 end of a 30 year civil war.

The challenges should not be underestimated among a population traumatised by one of the longest running and bloody conflicts in recent history.

Up to 100,000 people were killed during the war, with hundreds of thousands displaced and at a cost of an estimated $200 billion to the Sri Lankan economy.

There was virtually no government infrastructure development in the regions controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) due to security concerns, including no electricity supply or water sanitation, and little to no road construction or maintenance.

The current investment in infrastructure is staggering.

Electricity supply has been provided to the majority of the northern and eastern provinces where the LTTE largely operated.

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More than 20,000 kilometres of new high-quality roads have been constructed including 18,000 kilometres of rural access roads.

A huge investment has been made in building and upgrading health and education services.

Hundreds of thousands of land mines and unexploded ordnance have been recovered by teams of Sri Lankans employed to de-mine mostly agricultural areas that are being returned to production.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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