Politicians have fanned the embers of communalism

wigneswaranThe Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C V Wigneswaran told the President at the Northern Province Coordinating Committee meeting in Jaffna on 03 March 2015, that whilst there was a need for adequate devolution across the island, the problems facing the North-East were different to the rest of the island, and required an urgent needs based assessment. The Chief Minister highlighted the importance of learning all three languages to progress as One Country and also highlighted that the 13 th Amendment cannot address the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka.

His full speech is as follows:

Your Excellency our President, Honourable Governor, Hon’ Parliamentarians, Hon’ Members of the Northern Provincial Council, Chief Secretary, District Secretary, other officials, distinguished Guests and my dear brothers and sisters,

It is indeed a red letter day for us in the North. Our President who was elected to office with a significant contribution of votes from the Northern and Eastern Provinces has found the time among his onerous duties to be with us. We welcome you Sir and wish you the very best in your current distinguished office. We are also hopeful Sir, during your stewardship significant progress would be made to resolve the ethnic conflict which has unfortunately been allowed to fester by politicians of all hues. Your Excellency hails from Polonnaruwa, an area where Buddhistic places of worship abound. My early childhood was spent in the surroundings of the Maha Bodhi – the Temple of the Sacred Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura. We Tamils particularly the Hindus   too give great importance to the Bodhi Tree or Arasa Maram. This holy tree has had a significant effect in instilling Metta – loving kindness, Karuna – compassion, Mudita-sympathetic joy and Upekkha – equanimity among those who reside in its close proximity In Pali these four attitudes of the mind are known as Brahma Vihara – which means God like states of mind. Such attitudes simply mean freedom from hate.

It is the urgency of the hour today that we need to banish hatred from our mind. Sir, let me tell you a secret as a humble student votary of all religions. Our political problems cannot be solved by our head. They need to be solved by our hearts. It is a change of heart that could bring us a change of attitude. When we allow our heads to rule us from political standpoints or selfish standpoints enlightened or otherwise, we cannot bring about Metta, Karuna, Mudita nor Upekkha into our life. Being born in an area where from ancient times the higher states of mind and attitudes among the Buddhist clergy and Buddhist public have been prevalent, you are ideally suited to usher in a new way of life, a new humane understanding among the denizens of this Country. We welcome you whole heartedly into our midst.

I have been asked to speak for seven minutes. I want to speak in English not because I want to relegate Tamil language an inferior status but to grant the Link language its Constitutional importance as a bridge building language. It is my humble view Sir, if we are to progress as one Country with two nations every single individual in this Country must be competent and conversant in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English.

We need to go back to the pleasant state of relationship that we had at the time of the grant of independence. Many matters have contributed to the suspicion among our communities. Some politicians have positively fanned the embers of communalism. Under your stewardship may the soft breeze of humaneness and compassion pervade this Island of ours.

Yet, I need not remind you that even though the 13th Amendment was brought in order to resolve the problems of the Northern and Eastern Provinces it has had no effect. In fact it has got emaciated inter alia during the term of office of President Premadasa, further emaciated by a technical Supreme Court judgment and by the passing of the 18th Amendment and the Divineguma Act. Mr.Appapillai Amirthalingam and others including our present leader Mr. Sampanthan on the 28th of October 1987 had foretold that the 13th Amendment could never be a solution to our problems. Even this very DCC meeting had created problems to us. On the 18th of November 2013  your predecessor on his Birthday had written a letter to me despite our landslide victory in September that year that  I should be a Joint Chairman to take forward the Mahinda Chinthanaya. It was that Chinthanaya that had been rejected by our people. The thinking hitherto has been that the Central Government does what it wants and the Provincial Council must co-operate with the efforts of the Central Government. Devolution means the periphery being allowed to decide what it wants to do ably supported by the Central. This aspect of the administrative process might be taken into consideration and proper devolution of powers might be enacted soon.

It must be remembered that we are different in the North and East. We are a war affected region. Our problems are different, serious and needs adequate handling. I have yesterday impressed upon the Resident Co-ordinator of the UN in the presence of the Under Secretary General Mr.Feltman that a needs’ based multi lateral assessment is a crying necessity for us to properly address our special problems. Nevertheless many matters need the attention of your Government in our part of the Island on an ongoing basis.

In the field of Education we have the urgent cases of contract basis teachers, part time teachers and volunteer teachers. There are 177 contract basis teachers and 87 part time teachers who need to be conferred permanency as teachers. The volunteer teachers 389 in number need to be absorbed into the Sri Lanka Teachers’ Service. Our Education Department has also asked for the filling of vacancies over 100 in number in the SLEAS cadres.

In the Health Sector there are shortages of Consultants in major Hospitals. Only 55 are now serving out of a cadre of 119 in the Northern Province. There is dire need for medical administrators in the Province. There is an urgent need to fill at least 100 vacancies out of 242 existing vacancies among medical officers needed. At least 150 nursing officers are urgently needed. There are many other requirements.  As the former Minister of Health you Excellency might have come to know of our predicament earlier itself.

Our Agriculture Minister has many problems of which the pollution caused to the ground water sources in Chunnakam and adjoining areas are causing concern. Our Fishermen’s issues were brought to your notice recently by our Minister of Fisheries.

I am told our Ministers will forward their needs and requirements by writing to your office Sir for your favorable consideration. Our Chief Secretary has already stated his piece.  It was my desire to hand over in writing all their needs to you here today but I have not succeeded in getting the relevant documents in time.

As for my Ministry let me set out very briefly our needs and requirements.

An urgent need of the hour in the field of Land Acquisition is to put a stop to the haphazard acquisition by the Military and the Police, of lands belonging to the general public. Lands already acquired without our permission nor consent be handed back to the legitimate owners. In Kokkilai and Manal Aru the local occupants of lands have been forcibly evicted and persons from outside our Province have been allowed to take possession of their lands.

We are also concerned about the so called “disappeareds” and those detainees who for years are in incarceration without any cases being filed against them. Many of the so called “disappeareds” are there in unofficial detention as opposed to those in official detention. It is high time they are identified and an Amnesty be given. Wesak comes on the 3rd of May. May I suggest an Amnesty for them on that Holy Day?

A scheme to arrange for the livelihood needs of the dependents of those who are in Prisons and in detention need to be formulated. It is but a humanitarian exercise. Many such unfortunate dependents come in numbers to us asking for relief. We are not financially provided for such exigencies.

There are those affected physically and mentally by the war who need attention.

The surreptitious and illegal removal of sand and stone without consideration for the adverse environmental effect they cause, is a matter that needs immediate attention. Without proper permits nor official papers, with political influence much of our resources are being removed. There seems to be connivance and concurrence on the part of various official power bases.

Farms and houses, estates and lands taken over by the Armed Forces and others need to be immediately released to their legitimate owners.  For example the Vavuniya Co-operative Training Institute needs to be released to the Northern Provincial Council by the Central Government.

The Boat to Delft called Vadatharakai has been take over by the Navy and not released. They must take steps to give it back to the People.

There are a number of temples, houses and public places which had been destroyed during the war. A system of paying compensation to the affected people needs to be formulated.

Many cases of corruption in official quarters remain unaddressed. They include recruitment of persons to employment outside due process.

The setting up of the CM’s account was unjustly scuttled by the previous Governor. It is high time the CM’s official account is allowed to function. Such an account will no doubt come under the purview of the Auditor General.

There are many other matters. Let me conclude stating that your visit to the North it is hoped will usher in a new chapter in our History. May Divine blessings be with you Sir!

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