Winning hearts and minds of people in North
The Eastern Province finally got the
opportunity to restore civil administration within its realm. The next
would be the Northern Province. This time ‘Face 2 Face’ focuses on a
moderate view and a political view on the developments emerging in the
Northern sector of our island nation.
Gomin Dayasiri - Leading Attorney-at-Law who
appeared in the landmark de-merger case
Thirunavukarasu Sritharan, General Secretary,
Pathma Nabha EPRLF
Gomin Dayasiri - Leading Attorney-at-Law
who appeared in the landmark de-merger case
Pic: Kavindra Perera
Thirunavukarasu Sritharan, General Secretary, Pathma Nabha
How do you see the establishment of the advisory body - The Task
Force for the Development of Northern Province?
Gomin Dayasiri - Leading Attorney-at-Law who appeared in
the landmark de-merger case: Process introduced is in the form of
distant representation for the people together with the appointees with
proximity to the political, civil and military establishment. If it is
further politicized it will become devalued; otherwise it can fast-track
development by coordinating the tiers of government.
The venture to be successful, has to have teamwork and reciprocal
cordiality among the appointees. The litmus test is whether they can win
the confidence of the people of the Northern Province. There was a time
when the People of the Province always preferred a Sinhalese Government
Agent to a Tamil, because the holder was distant from parochial issues
and immune from peninsular local politics.
The paramount consideration should be to enhance living standards and
accelerate development and guarantee security to a captive population.
If the appointees attempt to further their political agendas it will
alienate the people and the entire exercise will be futile. The Central
Government must show itself as a caring administration and keep the
appointees in check.
Thirunavukarasu Sritharan, General Secretary, Pathma Nabha EPRLF:
We feel this is a good stepping stone for the development of the
Northern Province. People of the Northern Province underwent many
hardships during the past three decades.
Many people lost their family members and a lack of transport,
destroyed infrastructure, lapses in the education was happening
throughout these years.
Hence, concentration is needed to uplift the entire development of
the Northern Province. It is highly essential. More accessible paths, I
mean transport, to Jaffna from other parts of the country and vice versa
is highly needed.
Many rural areas in the Northern peninsula have not received adequate
development. Therefore, I see that advisory body is highly essential for
the development programs. But, this not a political solution. Not a
devolution of power. It acts only as an advisory body.
Do you think the Task Force Committee could be a prelude to the
intended Northern Provincial Council?
GD: The elections must be held after the terrorists are
eliminated. It is silly to set time-frames when you are at war with a
terrorist organization.President Bush commenced a withdrawal process and
then reversed it to establish a bulge in Iraq-we must learn from such
The people must have security to come into political process. The
Task Force is the stepping-stone towards reaching election but with time
if the system is successful it should be enlarged by attracting non
political personalities. That will give greater authenticity. We are
still a long way from elections.
But other ingredients of Democracy such as the freedom of expression,
free media, the right of dissent, right of association and fundamental
rights within security considerations which are denied by the LTTE must
be encouraged. It must not be an avenue for terrorists to creep into the
TS: For a Provincial Council there should be multi-party
representation.But this committee does not seem to be having such a
representation. I see this as a proto-type initiation. This is only a
stepping stone for the development programs. I do not see it as an
actual prelude to the Northern Provincial Council.
What is your observation on the current situation in the Northern
GD: The government must win the hearts and minds of the people
and they must be prepared to travel that extra mile. LTTE is exhausted
and without replacements- paying the price of being undemocratic and
alienating their people, for so long! The basic requirements of the
people must be attended to, while security considerations are observed.
We must have a caring Majority and a considerate Minority. Extremism
is the danger word. Equal Treatment with special emphasis to overcome
the problems the minorities Provincial minorities face, is the priority
Honestly, the majority and the minorities share common grievances
equally but in view of the existing problem in the country there is
justification to attend to the minority grievances on a priority basis
to show genuine goodwill.
TS: There are two aspects. One is the war that is going on in
certain parts and other is the needs of the people. Agriculture,
Fishing, transport and many other livelihood and infrastructure
developments are essential to the Northern province and its people.At
the moment it seems to be in a very low level, compared to other parts
of the country.
Do you think the provincial administration in the East and the
Task Force Committee in the North could function freely without any
hindrance from the LTTE?
GD: In the East, the military, successfully vacuum-cleaned the
LTTE and its revival is a distant dream unless some of the elected
representatives deviously restore them for their political expediency.
If they do, they would be the early victims. In the North, the Task
Force itself will have to survive under military protection until the
terrorists are dislodged.
TS: Anyway, LTTE is a destructive force. They will never
welcome such constructive work. They would never prefer people
concentrating on elections, on electing their representatives and civil
Because all these factors take the people away from them. People
become distant from them. And they would be looking for chances to
destroy such a situation. That we should understand when we are taking
such a bold step.
Do you expect the countries that supported the peace talks to come
forward and stabilize democracy and assist the development activities in
the East as well as in the North?
GD: The countries that support Peace Talks are indirectly
seeking to rejuvenate the LTTE. They are greedy for a slice of the North
East cake which is bountiful with untapped resources, vast land
reservations, a supreme natural harbour and the longest stretch of beach
facing the Indian Ocean with a maritime continental belt of 230 miles.
It is an exotic piece of real estate for hungry foreign colonists.
Their cry for democracy and development is a facade. Who will offer
them better terms- the Government or the LTTE? Obviously to the
foreigners, it is the LTTE, if the LTTE can acquire and re-acquire lost
possession. So naturally they are not keen to see the LTTE dispossessed
of these treasures. North is wasteland compared to the East. Sri Lanka’s
treasure trove is the East. So, the hungry foreigners want more than a
TS: We do have a positive attitude towards such assistance.
But what is most important is getting back the identity of the people of
those affected areas in any constructive manner. Making the atmosphere
more peaceful is a must. So whatever the assistance we are receiving
should support these necessities. Arms culture silence the voice of
innocent people. So it has to be eradicated. Discussions should arise.
Otherwise there would be a dead silence.
Since the LTTE’s presence is felt very much in the heartland of
Vanni, how best the Task Force Committee for the North could go ahead
with its functions and responsibilities?
GD: Task Force must have the people uppermost in mind and they
must establish their bona fides. If they are puppets of the government
they would loose all credibility. Due to LTTE threats Task Force would
have to depend on the military for their survival. But my fear is their
political objectives. But again with highly politicized structures in
place, only a motivated political animal can deliver the goods in a high
TS: I agree certain areas are under the clutches of the LTTE.
Yet we have to start somewhere and somehow. Isn’t it? We cannot wait
until the total Northern Province is liberated from the LTTE. Only when
the news reaches the people living in the uncleared areas, they will
have hope in their lives!
Previously Tamil Political parties emphasized the need to merge
North and East.But they contested in the present election in the
de-merged Eastern Province. What is your comment on this change of
mindset of these Tamil political parties?
GD: Those who want to remerge are working towards an LTTE
agenda. Merged North-East is the Tiger map. Tigers- whether of the
Northern or Southern breed- do not change their spots but are merely
posturing at elections for their advancement. The hunger and thirst for
the East will never dry-so we have to be vigilant especially after the
Provincial Council elections could be the beginning of an era, where
within the confines of the law surreptitious methods will be utilized to
set the blueprint for a merger. It could also lead to the creation of
ethnic enclaves. Post-election syndrome requires close monitoring by the
civil and military establishments to keep tabs on fissiparous
TS: We also believe that there should be some sort of a
merger. But it is clearly not the merger that took place in the past.
This is a very sensitive issue. We emphasize on a maximum devolution in
a united Sri Lanka.
People with same interests would like to live together. So likewise
Tamil people would also like to live among Tamils, with proper
devolution of power for the people to function properly and receive the
basic necessities in life.We see this is important to Southern parts of
the country as well as the North and the East. Requirements of the
people should be met properly.
In your opinion what would be the best - merging or de-merging the
Northern and Eastern Provinces?
GD: There is no merging or demerging-it is demerged in every sense.
Remerging is the road map with Eelam as the destination. Three of the
most heinous crimes committed against Sri Lanka in recent times are the
North-East merger, CFA and establishment the PTOMS.
Guess who were the authors? In dismantling the North-East merger and
the PTOMS Tsunami structures much of the credit must go to the
enlightened Supreme Court orders to which even the NGO legal dons from
the Colombo University could not offer a whimper of criticism.
TS: We can not decide. The people should decide on this. There are
about 25,000 to 30,000 people displaced in the North and the East. These
people must return to their original homes and then people of the North
and East should decide on merger or de-merger. They should decide what
is best for them.
What is the message you would convey to the LTTE over the changes
that are taking place in the North and East today?
GD: People have voted for democracy overwhelmingly. LTTE are
out of step, out of touch. Get in to the mainstream of democracy if you
want to be reckoned! Take a lesson from the TMVP and the JVP.
TS: I would like to tell them kindly and very politely, their
armed struggle for the past thirty years gave them nothing. No one can
achieve anything by force and in particular by using arms power. Such
mechanisms would not work in the contemporary world.Because of their
struggle it is their own people who suffered - for whom they claimed to
be the sole representative. This, they must realize.