Liberation of the North
The success of the armed forces in retaking Mavil Aru was followed by the launch of a major humanitarian military operation to free the North of the island too, from the grip of the LTTE. From around September 2008, the armed forces advanced in the North defeating the LTTE in its several Northern strongholds of Pooneryn, Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu, until its final defeat on 19th May 2009.
In the final stages of the battle, the LTTE demonstrated its ruthless nature by holding thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields, and later as hostages, for the protection of the LTTE leadership that was expecting to escape through some form of foreign assistance.
Of much importance in the successful defeat of the LTTE and its terrorism, was the firm stand that then President Rajapaksa took against western powers and international institutions that pressured him to have a ceasefire with the LTTE during the last stages of the battle. He rejected those pressures as interference in the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, and was not swayed by threats of economic and other reprisals by western forces that were supportive of pro-LTTE expatriate Sri Lankans in those countries.
Following the defeat of terrorism, President Rajapaksa took key measures to restore democracy to the North. Shortly after the victory over terrorism, steps were taken to hold Local Government elections to the Jaffna Municipal Council and the Vavuniya Urban Council in the North.
President Rajapaksa also made an important commitment to resettle all of nearly 300,000 internally displaced Tamil civilians in the North under a 180-day resettlement and rehabilitation programme. A very large number of the internally displaced were resettled within this initial period. The Government completed the resettlement of all of the IDPs, more than 290,000, in September 2012, just three years after the end of the conflict, establishing a record for the speed and success of such work among countries that have suffered from armed conflict. Furthermore, most of the vast extents of land mined by the LTTE as it fled the areas it controlled were also cleared and made safe for resettlement.
One aspect Mahinda Rajapaksa especially stressed was the rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres, and especially the child soldiers recruited by the LTTE. There were 11,000 LTTE cadres who surrendered to Government troops. All former child soldiers were re-united with their parents, and many also started attending regular schools both in northern towns as well as in the Colombo District.
“Uthuru Vasanthaya” (Northern Spring) was the special initiative of President Rajapaksa to expedite development in the North, and make the people in the Northern region partners in the country’s progress. This programme saw heavy investment in infrastructure development in the north. Considerable investment also came to the region, including the opening of branches of major local and foreign banks, and many other financial services. The North was also once again included in the tourism map of the country.