Rajapaksa invites India to help rebuild railway line

March 23rd, 2009 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, March 23 (IANS) Launching a project to restore the railway line to northern Jaffna peninsula after 19 years, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday invited India, Pakistan, China and Japan to help rebuild the track.
“On this occasion I call upon India, China, Pakistan, Japan and other countries that helped us in our struggle against terrorism to come forward and assist us in this reconstruction, so that terrorism would not be able to raise its head again,” Rajapaksa said.

“In the struggle against terrorism, we realised that you are our genuine friends,” he said after launching the project.

The train service, well-known as Yal Devi, to the northern Jaffna peninsula, lying some 480 km north of Colombo, came to a halt in June 1990 with the breakout of violence. Since then it was operated upto the northern town of Vavuniya, located 340 km north of here.

The LTTE has attacked this train several times in between late 1980s and early 90s. Railway lines and sleepers too had been spirited away by the LTTE to fortify bunkers and what remains there is the bare skeleton of the rail infrastructure of the once thriving northern line.

The restoration of Yal Devi train service “will show our resolve for unity and coexistence”, President Rajapaksa said, adding he had decided to rebuild the Jaffna (railway) station employing the people of his own village, Hambantota (in the southern province).

“What we are attempting now is to breathe new life into the heart of the nation, to start the journey that would unite the entire nation after 19 years,” Rajapaksa said.

The reconstruction of this railway line beyond Vavuniya became possible after the government troops flushed the rebels out of their former strongholds such as Mankulam, Kilinochchi, Paranthan and Elephant Pass since the beginning of this year.

The military said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas have now been boxed into a mere 28 sq km land area in the north-eastern Mullaitivu district, facing a multi-pronged military onslaught.

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