Dispute Over Jaffna Census Figure

The dispute over the latest population figure arrived at in the Jaffna region by the Census and Statistics Department in 2011 is a storm in a tea cup, claims an economist.

“The figures cannot be fudged and without definite proof we cannot say that the figure is wrong” says the Principal Researcher at the Point Pedro Institute of Development Prof. Muthukrishna Sarvananthan.

“Minor political parties are making it an issue because of their bargaining power being diminished,” says Sarvananthan. Recently TNA MP M. Sumanthiran claimed that the population figure arrived at by the Census and Statistics Department in its 2011 census is incorrect.

According to the 2011 statistics the Jaffna district has only 583,071 persons.  In the 1981 census it was reported that the figure stood at 734,474.

Sarvananthan said that the figure 583,071 for the Jaffna district is ‘perfect’ as in the 1981 census Kilinochchi was attached to the Jaffna district.

“The number of electoral seats in Jaffna has sunk from nine to five now due to the proportional representation system. The EPDP and other minor parties are greatly disturbed that they may not get any seats at all in future elections” he said.

“They are making it an issue because their bargaining power has  lessened” he added.

He said that the census were carried out by enumerators which included responsible persons like teachers and government officials and thus the figures cannot be disputed.

“In 2001 the Jaffna district had a population of  490,600 persons and in ten years there has been an increase in population of around 100,000  which is ‘perfectly alright’ he said.

“Many have left the Jaffna District for the south in search of jobs or even overseas and we have no data of how many have left the district,” he said.

The population count as a whole has declined.  Sri Lanka’s population as at 2011 stands at 20.2 million a decline of 400,000 persons. However the Central Bank Annual Report of 2011 estimates the population in Sri Lanka to stand at 20.6 million.

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