Hon’ Chairman, Hon’ Ministers, Hon’ Members of the Provincial Council belonging to the ruling party as well as the opposition!
Before presenting the draft of the Annual Financial Statement and Appropriation statute for the year 2014, I have made a statement in Tamil. I think it is appropriate to translate the said statement to English too and deliver same.
It was the political agitation by the minorities that resulted in the establishment of the Provincial Council. More specifically it was for the benefit of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East that Sri Lanka and India formulated the Provincial Council system which resulted in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
But the then Government made the Provincial Council System applicable to the whole Island and thus stultified the whole concept of power sharing essential for the Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces. Thereby nothing was given specially for the Northern or Eastern Provinces when power sharing was urgently needed by them rather than the other Provinces. In fact the political need to devolve power for the North and East was effectively scuttled. The political needs, aspirations and the special interests of the people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces were thus overlooked.
The Provincial Council System, it must be noted has been identified by all as a means to devolve power to the periphery. But the Thirteenth Amendment in fact has strengthened the hands of the Executive President and widened his powers.
The Governor is the representative of the Executive President. No appointment is possible within the Province without the approval of the Governor. From the Secretary to the Minor Employees, it is the Governor who holds the whip hand. Even though the law says the appointment of the Chief Secretary shall be by the President with the concurrence of the Chief Minister, the present Chief Secretary was not appointed in conformity with the Law. She did not consider it necessary to resign when the new Administration came in. This applies to other Secretaries too.
In our Northern Provincial Council it is the former Jaffna Commander of the Armed Forces who has now taken on the mantle of the Governor. He naturally goes on unhindered as if the Army is administering the Northern Province. The officials of the Provincial Council therefore fear to cooperate with the Peoples’ Representatives. They shudder to think of the consequences of displeasing a former Northern Commander of the Army and the present Governor.
Added to this we have not been able to present a single Statute to the Council as the Administration lacks the required high level human resources and institutional arrangements. It is by effluxion of time that our present cadre of senior officers got to where they are now. May be political patronage in the case of some cannot be over ruled. But we are unable to expect a high level of efficiency and proficiency in certain quarters. There is no system by which we can induct high level human resources.
Twenty odd years of Military Rule has trained our officers to act parrot like and to do things as they are told to do only. But I do not criticize them. I feel aggrieved. There is a gap in the capacity for governance and development inside and outside the Administration.
At this stage someone might pose the question as to why we decided to contest the Provincial Council Election if the Thirteenth Amendment lacked teeth and was insufficient. There were two important reasons. Only if we stood for election could we bring out to the notice of the world the feelings and aspirations of the people of the Northern Province and show that the Government was portraying a false picture. In fact at the last Election the people were able to loudly proclaim their disapproval to the Government in power and the presence of the military in the Northern Province.
Secondly without power, without authority in our hands to proclaim insufficiencies in the Thirteenth Amendment at Colloquiums and Seminars made no impact on the Government nor the International Community. But we felt it was better to get ourselves established in authority, experience the short comings in reality and thereafter tell the world what was happening. That exactly is what we are doing now. Rather than to merely say that Thirteenth Amendment is insufficient we feel exposing its shortcomings while established in office would be beneficial for future changes.
The objective of the 2012 UN Resolution was to bring about a change for the better, in the life of the people of the North and East and bring justice to them. But whether the Resolution has had the desired effect on our Government is no doubt debatable.
The Northern Provincial Council Elections took place entirely due to the pressure brought about by India. You cannot continue to keep the Military in the North and expect reconciliation and regeneration. The Joint Declaration by the President and the UN Secretary General in May 2009 has not been honored to say the least. The Foreign dignitaries who came over here publicly commended an immediate change in the life of the people of the North and East. They have urged the urgent need to devolve sufficient powers to the North and East.
It should be understood by all clearly that the present Provincial Council cannot be a vehicle of change for the betterment of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East. It could be converted into a transitional Administration. For 65 years since Independence the problem of the Tamil speaking people of this country have not been solved. Consecutive Governments of which ever hue were only interested in foisting more and more hardships and calumny on our people.
Thereby turning to the International community appears to be the only alternative open to us. The International community within the past two months has given us assurances that they could help us. We therefore must do everything on our part to accept their largesse. In 2012 the UN promised technical assistance by the mandate holders.
Unless there is immense pressure from the International Community our Government will not grant any form of power sharing to the Tamil speaking people of the North and East. The International Community should ensure that aid given to us reaches us. The Government should not be an obstacle to our receiving such aid. We must receive directly the largesse extended to us. Sometimes projects under taken in the Provinces grind to a halt prematurely since aid money gets stagnated at Central Government level.
It is also essential that our officers must receive technical assistance to draft appropriate Statutes and development projects and plans. We have very little human resources in these directions. There seems to have been a deliberate attempt at subversion of innovation so far.
What I see today in this country is the deterioration of democratic institutions and the rule of Law throughout the country. We argue about federalism, self determination, power sharing and what not while in the Northern Province if not the whole country foundations are being laid for a dictatorship. The Family Rule gives us the opportunity to question whether steps are being taken to pass on administration from one to the other, from Democracy to Dictatorship. When statements are being made five years after the war that the Military will not be withdrawn from the Northern Province at any cost, we must understand the unsaid thoughts of those who utter so.
If we do not find solutions at the earliest for the problems of the Tamil Speaking people of the North and East the existing state of affairs would very definitely make a significant change in the demographic pattern of the North in favour of the majority community following what has taken place in the East. There are some pathetic Tamils who question “why not?” They must realise that it was after driving away violently the Tamil speaking people from the Southern seven Provinces between 1958 and 1983 that colonization of the Northern Province with the help of the Military is being undertaken now. Do not these brothers who ask such questions know that activities of successive Governments in this Country have bordered on genocide if not genocide or knowingly do they ask these questions for selfish reasons?
I would say well planned activities are in progress to completely detract the World from identifying the Northern and Eastern Provinces as traditionally and historically Tamil speaking. It is essential that an International strategy is innovated to quickly ascertain the views of the Tamil speaking people presently still occupying their traditional home lands. If the International Community shows laxity, lethargy and indifference the plight of the Tamil speaking people would become irreversible. Let our people as well as the International Community realize the dangers lurking around us in the Northern Province with the presence of the Military.
The finances we are to receive are negligible. Nevertheless it is our resolve that widows’ families, women headed families, disabled and others affected by the war should be ameliorated with foreign help.
We propose to assess the needs of the people of each District and take steps to improve the living standards of these persons. The larger projects too are in our itinerary. We hope the Government would not be a source of obstruction in this regard. If our people would be guaranteed good life and contentment let our Sinhalese brothers and sisters realise it would go a long way in helping the whole Country.