Sri Lankan President should take cue from his principled veteran Leader of the Opposition


Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, leading the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is a Member of Parliament, who since September 2015 has been the Leader of the Opposition playing an important role to uphold democracy in Sri Lanka. This 85 years old veteran politician with his principled leadership, despite being intimidated by his opponents has stressed that politicians constitute the roots of corruption and that it must be eradicated. His guidance enabled TNA to play a larger role in excess of its membership to overcome the no confidence motion against the Prime Minister that has given the Yahapalanya government space to prepare for the many chaos and confusion yet to come from opponents to 2020.

The Northern Province Council (NPC), passed a resolution requesting the state to put a stop the colonisation programme taking place in their province and claim such a programme should have been implemented after consultation with them, stressing that the authority pursuing with such discriminatory policies was violating the constitution. The overlapping responsibilities on land use between the Mahaweli Development Authority, a body established by the Act of Parliament in 1979 reporting to the central government and NPC, a devolved provincial unit established consequent to the 13th Amendment to the constitution in 1987. Especially at a time when many internally displaced families from the said lands in Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts are still kept waiting for access into their own land by the authorities. Earlier in 1984, when the uprising against the state was brewing in the north these ordinary Tamil civilians living in their lands near the southern border of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts, were forcefully driven away by the state forces, under the pretext of preventing infiltration of the uprising forces crossing the borders through these lands. When the war was on this action by the state forces was justified as a security measure to protect the ordinary Sinhala civilians living near the northern borders of the adjacent provinces. Not now after nine long years of ending the war, by right these forced out families should have been allowed access to their own land that has now been declared by the authorities as state land. State forces retained in the province are facilitating the authorities to continue with the discriminatory policies of the previous governments. NPC considers it would not only cause tension between the communities, but also change the demography of the province by bringing people from other provinces.

In an earlier posting in Northern Breeze, it was discussed taking Mahaweli water to the Dry Zones north of the country*from the main dam of the Kalu Ganga Reservoir as part of the Moragahakanda – Kalu Ganga development project. This project first discussed in 1955, the days when all communities in Ceylon were living in harmony and in 1977 this harmony was lost for ever with the introduction of discriminative policies by then rulers as it was one of the few components of the Mahaweli mega project that was left out from implementing under the accelerated programme in Sri Lanka. After 30 years, during the last regime necessary funds were raised and finally the much needed multi-functional irrigation project for the dry zones north of the country was inaugurated in January 2007. Thereafter the state forces were able to silence the uprising Tamil forces in 2009 and it was anticipated that normalcy would return in the province. Instead with the full strength of the state forces were retained, uneasiness set-in in the minds of the minority Tamils living in the province. Then negative peace years followed and many discriminatory activities were undertaken by the state with the protection of the armed forces that prevented the Tamil civilians forced out in 1984 from returning to their land. One such activity of the last regime was in anticipation of this water project, planned deliberately with attempt to move southern farmers into north, particularly to be located in Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts. Thus the project though it was intended to benefit civilians living in the north dry zone in the country; but many Tamil speaking project area people were directly affected by this action by the Authority. The political parties other than the TNA, representing the Tamil speaking people in the North and East province had expected TNA to have in the past three years taken action on behave of the affected people, who voted for them as their sole representatives, than seek redress so late from the government. But the TNA Leader is well aware that the yahapalanaya government was voted to power at the 2015 General Election because of promises made to the people. That included getting rid of executive presidency, curbing corruption, making the new constitution and attending to transitional justice related matters; none of these have been accomplished to date, decided astutely to vote against the no confidence motion. For he knows well that if the motion goes through, his racist opponents would create more chaos in the House of Parliament and outside wanting to keep the ethnic problem brewing for their own political gains at decrement of the country. Both President and Prime Minister knows well that this veteran leader of TNA, though dedicated to get political equality for people represented his party, did play a key role in the no-confidence motion against the prime minister getting defeated in parliament last week. It was therefore not surprising that both President and Prime Minister has guaranteed that the government would provide redress to the problems faced by these people including return of lands in their provinces occupied by the armed forces. The President and the Prime Minister as the present leaders of the majority community ruling the country are therefore now obliged to address the grievances of the Tamil speaking minorities living in the North and East provinces, who rising from the ashes after the war ended in 2009 have been struggling the past nine years to come out of forced political isolation to join rest of the population.

Last week prior to participating in the no confidence motion against the Prime Minister; as the most senior Tamil politician in parliament the TNA leader did raise many issues of his people with the President that included return of lands to civilian owners affected by the irregular land settlement practices taking place in the Mahaweli development scheme in Mulliaitivu district. The President assured that these colonisations will be reviewed and resolved by his government. The NPC members must realise by now and certainly the TNA should have known better that there is a long history of failure to stop this type colonisation in the North and East Provinces in spite of past Tamil leaders calling for action and governments giving promises; perhaps NPC would have served better facilitating the affected people to take this matter to courts against the Authority for having violated the constitution in choosing the beneficiaries for this colonisation programme. The President and the Prime Minister must know that if the authorities are allowed to pursue discriminatory policies their present nation building programme will get choked; therefore to rule the whole country their government must serve the whole population; possible if they follow the principled veteran TNA leader, respected despite being intimidated by his own party members for being consistent with his call for a political settlement with maximum devolution within a united country agreeable to all communities. The President and the Prime Minister should take cue from their Leader of Opposition to upsurge above party politics and resolve the problems faced the voters to earn their votes at the next general election in 2020.

*Refer to Northern Breeze posting @ ; @