The recent no-confidence motion in Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Jaffna, moved by a section of the Council members against Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, has brought the deep divide in Tamil nationalist politics to the fore.
C.V.Wigneswaran, who became Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province in 2013 thanks to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), appears to be drifting away from the party which propped him up.
“When I heard that the Northern Provincial Council had passed a resolution on Genocide, I put my “head in my hands” again- something I did often during the previous regime. I asked myself, have we gone back to the beginning after all this violence and heartbreak? Tamil politics led by lawyers ( I am a lawyer so this is not said in contempt) has always emphasized legal concepts and theories even if they are far removed from the reality that Tamil people face in their day-to-day lives. We went from “nation” to “separate state”, now we are “two nations in one country”, and suddenly we have sprung the Genocide card which is one of the most difficult international crimes to prove because of its complete reliance on the “intent’ of any government in question.”
These days media often speak of conflicts between the center and provincial administration, especially between the Northern Provincial Council’s (NPC’s) Chief Minister (CM) / Members and the Governor of the Province. The CM had been known to me for some time as a gentle neighbor, Judge and the Governor as my subordinate and an “officer and gentleman.” Irrespective of their gentleness, now we hear of ‘official conflicts’ between them, much to the detriment of the NPC administration.
I must confess that the conflicting status has evidently seeped down to the administration too. This we observed when in Jaffna recently. As a retired public officer I cannot recollect such distanced and broken-down official relationship between the Government Representative (the Governor), political hierarchies (Provincial Councilors headed by the CM) and some administrators (headed by the Chief Secretary- CS). This does not speak well of all parties.
Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) passed a resolution on Monday calling for an international probe into the war crimes allegedly committed during the country’s ethnic conflict.
The NPC should engage the Centre and work towards economic policies that can rebuild the North and create employment opportunities. While considerable funds have been spent on large infrastructure projects by the government and the international donors, they have not improved the socio-economic situation of the broader population. Since the end of the war and the opening of the A-9 road, the North has merely seen the influx of consumer goods and the expansion of credit, which have in fact indebted the local population. The agricultural and fishing communities in particular are in a dire situation. The emphasis of future investments should be on employment creation. In this context, the NPC should play a watchdog role with respect to the Centre’s intervention.
Given the limited funds available to the NPC for capital investment, it should lobby and initiate agreements between international donors and the Government of Sri Lanka. The Fifty Thousand Indian Housing project, the most significant grant to the Northern Province, has been important in addressing the housing needs of the war-torn population and created employment for skilled and unskilled labour force. Such projects, particularly to create employment, are the need of the hour. Some donor projects focused on micro credit and other revolving fund initiatives around livelihoods have failed, and the lessons of such failures should be taken into consideration in engaging international actors for support.
Next, given the indebtedness facing the Northern population and the failure of rural incomes, there are increasing reports of food insecurity. Four and a half years after the end of the war, the war-torn population requires food subsidies and other grants to address this crisis even as medium-term measures towards livelihoods and employment creation are considered. The foreign dignitaries attending the Commonwealth Conference should be invited to address the plight of the people and to provide financial assistance to overcome the humanitarian crisis.
The NPC should carry out a needs assessment that considers the immediate, medium and long term development needs of the Northern Province and move on engaging the various actors that can support rebuilding the North. However, finances alone will not determine successful reconstruction. At the heart of the issue is also the model of economic development suitable to the social and economic conditions in the Northern Province.
The citizens of the Northern Province should not leave the issues of governance entirely to the newly elected Chief Minister and to the Board of Ministers. The citizens should be fully awake to their civic responsibilities, be incessantly vigilant and continuously engage with the policy making and the governance processes in order to ensure that the TNA does not deviate or compromise at this historic juncture. The public have an important role in keeping the NPC accountable. The Jaffna Managers Forum calls on the citizenry to be active in engaging the Provincial Councillors and the bureaucracy to ensure this valuable opening created by their own votes is not squandered. The first step in that direction will be the unveiling of a development vision by the Chief Minister and a vibrant public debate on the present situation of the Northern Province and its future.
The Jaffna Managers Forum offers a platform for all those civic conscious citizens of the Northern Province to engage in such an important endeavour. In this context, the next public discussion in this series by the Jaffna Managers Forum is titled ‘The Role of the Cooperative Sector in the Northern Economy’.
Jaffna Managers Forum
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“Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda remains disillusioned about the electoral defeat at the Northern Provincial Council Poll on September 21. Mr. Devananda, the leader of EPDP, is a strong advocate of the Provincial Council (PC) system. Also, EPDP is a militant group that laid down arms soon after the introduction of the system in 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Accord. During a recent interview with Daily Mirror, he speaks out his sentiments on the elections and the way forward for his party.”
New Delhi, which failed to militarily support an unambiguously pro-devolution President Kumaratunga during the Tigers’ siege of Jaffna in 2000, did not extend the requested and requisite degree of military support to Mahinda Rajapaksa in an equation that would have linked such support to political progress in lockstep as it were. Instead of simply insisting on the implementation of Sri Lanka’s own constitutional provisions (obviating the need for protracted, problematic talks with the TNA and the reinvention of the wheel), it was persuaded into echoing President Rajapaksa’s promise of 13 Plus. No wonder it finds itself in a dilemma on the next steps.
source: The Hindu