I am not for separation

wigneswaranAddressing a book launch in Colombo on Thursday (May 12), the Chief Minister reiterated that the federal system of government was not separatism, adding that the Northern Provincial Council had been constantly ignored and disregarded by the direct influence of the Central Government.

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran expressed disappointment that his provincial council’s proposals for constitutional reform had been painted out as proposals for the separation of the country. “That could not be further from the truth,” the former Supreme Court Justice vowed, at a book launch in Colombo last evening. The Northern Province Chief Minister was invited to be a guest speaker at the launch of ‘Unearthed’ a compilation of articles penned by Kusal Perera between 2005-2015 and a discussion on nation building and reconciliation that was held at the Foundation Institute.

Wigneswaran who began his speech by reciting the poem ‘And then they came for me’ by Martin Niemoller, an outspoken Nazi critic who spent seven years in a concentration camp, raised questions about why the heinous crimes of the last stages of the war in 2009 were not more of a concern to the Government and the majority of people in Sri Lanka. “Is it not due to the fact that the victims of such crimes were “others”?” he asked, urging people to put themselves in the shoes of the Tamil people.

“Proposals for the Tamil speaking peoples to be granted equal status as their Sinhalese brethren are hardly proposals for separation,” Wigneswaran told the audience at the book launch. The Chief Minister said the NPC proposals “cherished their Sri Lankaness’ while respecting the Tamil peoples’ individual, linguistic and cultural identities. Wigneswaran said the call by the Government to have proposals for constitutional amendments was a salutary step and added that the Northern Provincial Council’s participation in the constitutional reform process by putting forward proposals was a “bottom up approach” since the council functions closest to the northern polity on a day to day basis.

“I found it amusing that several people faulted the NPC for passing a resolution on constitutional reform proposals on the basis that the proposals were unconstitutional,” the Chief Minister said. “Every proposal to amend a constitution is by definition ‘unconstitutional’” he added, “but that does not mean that people who propose changes to a constitution are engaging in unconstitutional activity.”

He also urged the southern polity to stop worrying about federalism being a path to separation of the country. “This is what you believe because politicians have been screaming about how federalism will divide the country day and night. This is simply not true,” Wigneswaran said. Federalism, he said would bring people together. “A federal system will help us to cooperate and coordinate on running the country,” the Chief Minister explained.

In his 30 minute speech, the Northern Chief Minister continue to make stringent calls for the withdrawal of the military in the Northern Province, as a step towards creating what he called the ‘right atmosphere’ to enable solutions and building trust between parties. “Trust is not born at the barrel of a gun,” the Chief Minister charged. “Nor can it flourish when private lands are occupied by military forces.”

The Chief Minister argued that there was no security concern that warranted the retention of the military in the Northern Province. “The Tamil people are war weary. They will not condone attempts to renew violence,” he asserted. Wigneswaran added that it was his own position that Prabhakaran was the creation of State Terrorism.

“Distrusting the Tamil Community, if the Government continues to station the army amidst the victims of war, you cannot blame anyone if another Prabhakaran gets reincarnated,” the Chief Minister warned, making a controversial remark that has become his trademark. The Chief Minister also urged “honest introspection” as the first and most fundamental step towards true reconciliation. Honest introspection would require impartial investigations to be carried out, he explained.

“One thing has to be borne in mind. Investigating and prosecuting officers who have violated the law does not mean that you are unpatriotic or that you are ungrateful towards the security forces or that you are demeaning them. The failure to investigate wrongs on the other hand is disrespectful towards the officers who carried out their duties with dedication and within the ambit of the law,” the former Justice argued.

Wigneswaran who began his speech by reciting the poem ‘And then they came for me’ by Martin Niemoller, an outspoken Nazi critic who spent seven years in a concentration camp, raised questions about why the heinous crimes of the last stages of the war in 2009 were not more of a concern to the Government and the majority of people in Sri Lanka. “Is it not due to the fact that the victims of such crimes were “others”?” he asked, urging people to put themselves in the shoes of the Tamil people.

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