Dialog Telekom took a courageous step in 2002, deciding within weeks of the Cease Fire Agreement being signed that it would supply telecom services to the people of the North and East who had been excluded from the country’s telecom revolution for so long, because of the conflict and the military’s prohibition of service in conflict areas. The services thus provided were, without question, the most important dividend that the people of Jaffna saw from the path of peace, followed by the mobility allowed by the opening and restoring of the A9 highway.
Now, Dialog and the people of the North are paying the price of the path of war. For two months, the mobile networks have been shut down in the North, with service being allowed intermittently in the East. This means that approximately 220,000 families are unable to communicate with their loved ones in the North and that another 200,000 or so families are not sure their phone will work when they most need it.
Dialog, a company that has been the darling of the stock market since its successful IPO is looking at the loss not only of a significant number of subscribers, but also of a higher proportion of revenues because these are high-spending customers, as documented in the sample survey LIRNEasia conducted in the Jaffna district before the window of opportunity closed in 2005. It is noteworthy that they are continuing to maintain their commercial relationship in the region, optimistic that they will be allowed to restore service soon.
LIRNEasia believes that communication is a basic right. We have shown that in many conflict areas the phones continue to work, Israel and Palestine being the classic examples. We hope that the leaders of the government of consensus will do the right thing by the people of Jaffna and the East, who are today unable to communicate with their loved ones.