Army in the North is using our arable lands

Addressing the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) at Chief Minister’s Ministry Conference Hall, Kaithadi on 14 August, Chief Minister C V Vigneswaran said:”Let us not forget that still an Army of 150000 is stationed in the North using our arable lands, official buildings, using our natural resources including drinking water.

Mr. Vigneswaran’s Address: 

We are indeed happy to have all of you representing many an arm of the UN with us today. We are aware that you all are presently working on the UN Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF) 2018-2022. In fact our present Provincial Council will be in their last year when your Project under the UNSDF comes into being in 2018.

We would expect you to explain to us the difference in scope and content between the UNDAF (2013- 2017) and UNSDF (2018-2022). We were aware that Mahinda Chintanaya was mentioned in the UNDAF documents. You may be aware that the People of the Northern Province rejected that Chinthanaya. We were almost exclusively elected at the Provincial Council Elections having rejected the Mahinda Chintanaya whatever that meant. We were the dominant force in bringing about the change of Government on the 8th of January, 2015. It is because our perceptions were not taken into consideration by the then Resident Representative that we had differences of opinion with Mr. Subinay Nandi who felt we need to be an appendage of the Central Government, carrying out what the Central Government wanted. We were not prepared to do so. In fact I have pointed out to Ms. McCauley the close resemblance between us and the Irish people! We are glad that she heads the UN Family in Sri Lanka now.

We had told Mr.Nandhi that many matters that needed consideration by the UN at that time were not considered by him. I find you have mentioned yourself in your documents referring to “Leveraging the UN’s unique strengths in Sri Lanka” about addressing the perception that the UN has not been a neutral actor in Sri Lanka in order to improve its standing as an “honest broker” between the Government, the donor community and civil community.

A few matters we were interested at that time as appropriate subject matter for inclusion in the Peace Building Matrix were demilitarization, rehabilitation of ex combatants, providing of sustainable livelihoods for widows and women headed families and the providing of environmentally sustainable and economically productive human settlements for our poorest of the poor specially in the Wanni.

This Country as a whole has transitioned from a low to a middle income Country. But the Northern Province has not. It is still a low income area. This must be remembered.

Let us not forget that still an Army of 150000 is stationed in the North using our arable lands, official buildings, using our natural resources including drinking water. They are a source of fear and annoyance especially to our fishing communities since they openly get down fishermen from the South to resort to illegal methods of fishing in our waters depriving the locals of their livelihood.

There had been criticisms leveled against projects by UNHABITAT in the Mullaitivu District. Forests have been cleared to put up roads and houses for Muslims without going through the normal processes.

It is not my intention to criticize your activities. I need to mention the manner in which a closer collaboration is possible provided the UN recognizes the fact that we of the North and East have been agitating for our special rights in consonance with our individuality for over half a century and still there is hesitancy on the part of any Government to grant our legitimate rights.

Since the introduction of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as basis of the UN’s post 2015 development agenda we have a common ground with the Government in pursuing our needs and wants through the said SDGs. What the Government had been hesitant in granting the North and East could now be introduced through the SDGs. It may be appropriate for us to discuss this matter today. Closer collaboration with you is what we want but not at the expense of being manipulated by the Central Government. There are many areas in which we have seen such manipulation.  We shall discuss them now.

Thank you.

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