The Chief Minister of the Northern Province has criticised the Sri Lankan President’s attempt to prioritise development as a route to ‘national unity and integration’, over a political settlement, as well as criticising the Sri Lankan government’s approach to development in the North-East.
“National Unity and Integration cannot be forged by foisting so-called development on the politically affected people of the North and East,” Chief Minister Wigneswaran wrote in a letter responding to his appointment as a member of the Presidential Task Force to Direct, Co-ordinate and Monitor Development Activities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
“The political settlement of the problem of the Tamil speaking people of the North and East should precede any such development processes,” he said, calling the President’s expectation that development could ensure national unity and integration “misplaced”.
“The fact that successive Governments for the past 9 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,” cannot be erased by attempts to convince the international community that development has been undertaken in the North-East, the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister slammed the expectation that Tamils “could be enticed to accept such developments in exchange for our People’s Political and Human Rights”.
The TNA also expects the resolution of Tamils’ political problems before the end of this year as a precursor to any development processes, the Chief Minister said.
Mentioning Sinhalisation and land-grabs, the Chief Minister said “it is no secret that … the Govt is actively supporting pre-planned colonisation in the North and East to change the ethnic ratio. While forest areas in other Provinces are not maintained up to the expected ratio, even people’s lands in the Northern Province are being brought under the Forest Department, Wild Life Department, Archaeological 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.”
The Chief Minister also emphasised the need for development to happen in consultation with and led by the people of the North, and criticised the approach of central-government led development processes. In a group of several central government ministers, secretaries and military representatives as well as unelected provincial governors, the Chief Minister and his secretary would be the only Tamil representatives of the North in the task force.
“The people of the North and East are best suited to choose what they want, to state what their needs are,” the Chief Minister said. “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.”
“It is my view that all development activities in the North and East must be performed indigenously by the People/ People’s Representatives and Provincial Officers and the Central Government should provide the necessary wherewithal, guidance and advise where necessary. Devolution means that.”
“Otherwise development and devolution would become (as it already is) a mockery.”