Eastern Province

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INTRODUCTION

One of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the Eastern Province comprises of three districts
Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee, 45 Divisional Secretary’s divisions and 1,085 Grama
Niladhari Divisions. Together these make up about 15 percent of the total land area of the
country.

The region is endowed with natural resources ranging from forests and wetlands to lagoons
and beaches as well as a large number of ancient water bodies scattered across the
province. Batticaloa lagoon, Kokkilai lagoon, Upaar Lagoon and Ullackalie lagoon are some
of the lagoons dominating its coast.

The province is bordered by the Northern Province to the north, the Bay of Bengal to the
east, the Southern Province to the south, and the Uva, Central and North Central provinces
to the west.

During the civil war, the Eastern Province was under the control of Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) for many years. It was recaptured by the Sri Lankan military in 2007.
Thereafter, the province saw considerable development under the Nagenahira Navodaya
(Eastern Revival) Program.

The capital of the province is Trincomalee.

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the Department of Census and Statistics, the total population of the province is
1,677,000. The population is 51.6 percent (866,000) female and 48.4 percent (811,000)
male. The sex ratio of the province is 94, meaning that there are 94 men for every 100
women in the province.

According to Census of Population and Housing 2012, 25.1 percent of the population is
urban and 74.9 percent is rural.

Tamils (39.2 percent), Sri Lankan Moors (36.9 percent) and Sinhalese (23.2 percent) are the
major ethnic groups in Eastern province. Other ethnic groups together comprise 0.7 percent
of the population.

The percentage distribution of population by religion is Buddhist (23 percent), Hindu (34.7
percent), Muslim (37 percent), Roman Catholic (3 percent) and others (2.3 percent).
The literacy rate for population aged 10 years and above is estimated to be 91.9 percent
(lowest amongst all other provinces). Among males, the percentage of literate population is
94 percent and among females it is 89.9 percent.

Official languages include Tamil and Sinhalese.

ECONOMICS

In comparison to other provinces, the Eastern Province is relatively less developed. This is
largely a result of the ethnic conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that plagued the region for nearly two decades. In 2015, its
share of the overall GDP was 6 percent whereas the Provincial Gross Domestic Product
(PGDP) Nominal Growth Rate was 10.9 percent. The per capita income ratio was 0.8.
The provincial economy is mostly dependent on agriculture, with paddy as the main
agricultural crop, which contributes a quarter to the total output. The other major crop is
maize, which is now being promoted on a large-scale. Historically, the region was a surplus
rice-producing area as well as responsible for producing a third of country’s total paddy. It is
one of the most fertile and agriculturally productive regions of the country and thus,
popularly referred as the “Granary of the Island.”

Sectors contributing most to the regional economy include agriculture, trade and tourism,
transport, and construction. About 80 percent of the population is dependent directly or
indirectly on these activities for their livelihood. Services sector constitute the highest
proportion of the GDP at 49 percent, followed by industrial sector at 31.7 percent and
agriculture at 12.1 percent.

The total unemployed population (aged 15 years and above) is 50,018. Males comprise 64.1
percent and females comprise 35.9 percent of this population.
After Uva Province, the Eastern Province has the highest poverty head count index of 11
percent and its contribution to the overall poverty rate is 12.6 percent.

POLITICS

At present, Rohitha Bogollagama is the Governor of the Eastern Province and Hafiz Nazeer
Ahamed is serving as the chief minister.

Eastern Provincial Council (EPC) is the provincial council of the province. It has 37 members
that were selected through an open-list proportional representation system in the previous
elections held in 2012. The next elections will be held this year in February.

According to the Sri Lankan constitution, EPC has legislative power over matters including
agriculture, education, health, housing, planning, local government and social services. Even
though the constitution provides EPC with powers over police and land, successive central
governments have failed to devolve these to the province.

Eastern Province is politically frail. The ethnic, religious and social mix of the region makes
the politics in the region highly complex. In the past, this has resulted in significant political
and social challenges. For a long time decisions pertaining to the province continued to be dictated by the central government while insufficient attention was paid to the needs of the
local population.