BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Opposition MP Mano Ganesan told the visiting United Nations (UN) Department of Political and Peacebuilding Director Peter Due last Friday (18) to take up the political issues of the hill-country Tamils, particularly the inhumane conditions prevalent in the plantations, with the highest echelon of the UN.
Ganesan presented Due the document compiled by the TPA, titled the “Aspirations of Tamil people of recent Indian origin towards mainstreaming as full citizens in Sri Lankan polity” on 18 November.
Ganesan said that he also presented a separate document on the food insecurity and impoverished conditions faced by plantation residents.
“UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery Tomoya Obokata has already taken up the issues of the plantation sector. I thanked the UN for this initiative. Also the FAO and WFP of the UN have stated that food insecurity in SriLanka is highest in the estate sector at 51%, while it is at 43% in the urban sector and 34% in the rural sector. In addition, the World Bank has reported that the country’s poverty rate has climbed to 26% and it is at 53% in the estates. This shows that the people living in the plantations are the most vulnerable section of the country. But the eyes of the Wickremasinghe Government are yet to open,” he added.
Ganesan also noted: “I insisted that the people of the plantations need a special affirmative action program to overcome this marginalisation and vulnerability. I requested Due to call the development partners of Sri Lanka including the UN to insist that the Government of Sri Lanka implement an affirmative programme and then support its implementation in the plantation sector. If not, such conditions will lead to further political instability and endanger the peace building efforts – the very subject of visiting UN Director Due.”
He also noted that Due and UN Resident Co-ordinator in Sri Lanka Hanaa Singer responded positively.
Along with Ganesan, TPA Deputy Leader Velusamy Radhakrishnan MP and M. Udayakumar MP also participated in the talks
Speaking to The Morning on 14 November, Ganesan expressed his disappointment in the Budget 2023 speech by President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, claiming that Wickremesinghe’s apparent ignorance has shattered the hopes of hill-country Tamils.
“This has shattered the hopes of our people. We are disappointed at the ignorance of Wickremesinghe on the issues of the plantation sector and the urban poor. The World Bank, the United Nations (UN) agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Sri Lanka Red Cross have identified that food insecurity and poverty rates are high in plantations and also amidst the urban poor,” he added.
President Wickremesinghe was expected to announce affirmative action relief plans for these underprivileged segments, but failed in this regard, he claimed.
“If not making the announcement of an immediate relief programme, Wickremesinghe could have acknowledged the issues in his speech. Hence, the suffering people would be hopeful and relieved that the Government of the day is aware of their sufferings. But this ignorance kills the most vulnerable people more than anything,” he added.