The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil majority Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, has opted out of the Presidential Task Force on economic development of the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces, saying that the Tamils need a political solution for their long-standing problems before they embark on economic development.
In a letter to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena dated July 9, Wigneswaran said that the Task Force is useless also because it does not include the elected representative of the people or ministers of the Provincial Administration barring the Chief Minister.
Putting economic development before a political settlement is like putting the cart before the horse, and so, the development plan will be non-starter, Wigneswaran said.
He added that with the government in Colombo being wedded to the ‘top down’ approach to development work, his participation in the Task Force is meaningless. He hoped that by year end, political power will be devolved to the provinces and that he and the President can sit around a table to discuss development as equals.
No Local Elected Representatives
The Task Force to be chaired by the President. Its other members are: 15 Government Ministers from the Centre, Governors of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, self as Chief Minister of Northern Province. Chief Minister of Eastern Province (vacant now), one State Minister, one Member of Parliament, Central Government Secretaries to Prime Minister and other Ministers, Chief Secretaries of Northern Province and Eastern Province, Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, IGP, Jaffna Security Forces’ Head Quarters Commander, Eastern Security Forces Head Quarters Commander and Director – General, Civil Security Department as Members.”
“Apart from me and our Chief Secretary none else represent the Northern Province. Of course the Secretary is a Tamil but a Central Government Official,” Wigneswaran pointed out.
The Task Force is asked to direct, co-ordinate and monitor the development activities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of a balanced socio – economic and income growth. .
Commenting on this, Wigneswaran said: “Your Excellency’s expectation that the development process (whatever that might mean) is essential to ensure national unity and integration and creation of a balanced socio – economic and income growth seems to be misplaced. But national unity and integration cannot be forged by foisting so-called development on the politically affected people of the North and East. The political settlement of the problem of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East should precede any such development processes. “
“Any attempt to inform the world community whether in Geneva or elsewhere that so much of development activities have been undertaken by the South in the North and East would not erase the fact that successive governments for the past nine years and over, have failed to solve the basic political problem which necessitated the war and political agitation on the part of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East.”
“All economic benefits so far granted to our people were reparations for the wanton damage and destruction unleashed on our people by successive governments who would not accept the genuine political assertions of a group of people who have from pre-Buddhistic times occupied defined territories and had been majority in the North and East.”
“It is the refusal to admit the rights and claims of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East which led to war.”
It is wrong to assume that the development process would forge national unity and integration and that the Tamils could be enticed to accept such developments in exchange for their political and human rights, Wigneswaran said.
“I have been time and again informing Your Excellency as well as successive Central Governments that development processes must not be foisted on the North and East by the Centre. The people of the North and East are best suited to choose what they want, to state what their needs are,” he added.
“Money is retained by the Centre, projects are chosen by the Centre, implementation is given to officers of the Centre, but our Provincial Officers are asked to do their bidding. And Your Excellency expects peace, tranquility, unity and integration by such one sided activities,” he pointed out.
“It is no secret that while you are reviewing the progress so far made in the economic field the Government is actively supporting pre-planned colonization in the North and East to change the ethnic ratio,” Wigneswaran charged.
“People’s lands in the Northern Province are being brought under the Forest Department, Wild Life Department, Archeological Department and Other Central Government Departments making sure the Armed Forces and Central Govt Departments control vast acreages of lands belonging to the People of the area,” he complained.
“If the Government wants to review development projects there is no need for the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary to be present at such meetings. All the Central Ministers and their Ministry Secretaries and the Military together with the Government Agents would be able to gather the necessary particulars,” Wigneswaran said.
“The acceleration of the development underway in the Provinces would refer to processes that are top to bottom exercises undertaken unilaterally by the Centre,” he said.
No Need For His Participation
“I find the Task Force unnecessary unless we want to impress the world community how much economic benefits successive Central Governments have showered on the peripheral North and East.’
‘I am unable to accept that all these activities and the so-called development process would ensure national unity and integration and creation of a balanced socio economic and income growth.”
“I shall therefore thank Your Excellency to instruct the Task Force to review, accelerate and provide guidance to whomsoever necessary and send us their Report within a specified time so that my Ministers and I would check on their veracity and adequacy.”
“I find it unnecessary for me to be admitted as an appendage to such an august assembly of Ministers and Secretaries, Governors and Military Officers.’
“Our Party the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), as stated by its leader Hon’ Sampanthan recently, expects the resolution of our political problems before the end of this year as a precursor to any such development processes to be undertaken.”
“Hope Your Excellency would pave the way for a political solution soon so that we could sit as equals and develop this country together,” Wgineswaran said.