Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 November 2009





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Government Gazette

North needs new political thinking -Prof. Balasundarampillai

Q: How do you see the current atmosphere in Jaffna since the victory over the LTTE outfit?

A: The situation in Jaffna has improved significantly. Unlike in the past hardly any noise of an explosion or gunfire is heard in the peninsula. People are moving around freely without any restriction. The essential goods are flowing into Jaffna. Civilians can now travel to Colombo and other parts of the country paying a reasonable fare for their travelling. Earlier they had to pay exorbitant rates to fly by aircraft or sail by ships.

President of the People’s Council for Peace and Goodwill of Jaffna and the former Jaffna University Vice Chancellor Professor P. Balasundarampillai says there is a significant improvement in the socio-economic aspects in the North since the end of war early this year. He also says that the Tamil political parties need to provide a healthy leadership with new political thinking. The follwing are excerpts of an interview had with him:

Students are freely moving around.There is no fear of abductions or other atrocities.

As far as the Internally Displaced civilians within the peninsula are concerned, they still have problems with regard to their livelihood.The IDPs within the peninsula are from Valikamam north and the islets as well. So the IDPs within the peninsula should also be resettled properly in their original places.

However, as far as the political trend is concerned I feel there is a vacuum prevailing in the region. There were elections for Jaffna Municipal Council. But the people of Jaffna expect that there political aspirations are yet to be met.

Q: What is your assessment on the post-war economic activities in the peninsula?

A: Even during the peak of the war, the agricultural and the small time business activities were taking place in the peninsula. Farmers and fisherfolk were affected very badly for almost three decades. Several big time enterprises such as Kankesanthurai cement factory and a large number of small industries had to be closed down as a result of the ravaging war. But now with the opening of the A-9 highway a plenty of interactions are taking place with regard to banking and trading activities. Investors are interested in focusing on Jaffna. Fishing has improved significantly. But several potential fishing regions still remain within the high security zone areas. Therefore, the fishermen still do not have access to fishing in the high seas in certain areas in the peninsula.

Q: With the end of the armed struggle what are your observations on the political trend in the peninsula?

A: Jaffna people lived in a state of fear-psychosis. They knew the armed struggle was not the right approach to realise their political aspirations. However, they were in a helpless situation to express whatever they felt. They did not have the right political leadership for the past three decades. But now with the end of war they expect that their political issues should be addressed in a dignified manner. Therefore, the government must take the appropriate measures in settling the Tamil political issues in the North and the East.

Q: What is your view on the resettlement process of the Internally Displaced Persons in the Wanni?

A: I would say it is encouraging. The situation now is different compared to what it was a couple of months ago. Now a large number of refugees have been resettled in their original places and the IDPs in Vavuniya have also been permitted to move around freely.

But in Killinochchi and Mullaithivu areas the resettlement process should be expedited. It was during the British period settlements were carried out in Killinochchi and Mullaithivu areas for the first time. Reservoirs were built and lands were also provided for agricultural purposes. The war that has spread to Killinochchi from the peninsula has destroyed the cultivation in the region. So the innocent farmers and fisherfolk in Killinochchi and Mullaithivu should be resettled as early as possible with compensation for whatever the losses they suffered when the war was in progress.

Q: The reconstruction process of big and small industries is currently under way in the North. What is your comment on it?

A: There were several big and small industries operating prior to the darker period in the North. But it is unfortunate that those vibrant industries which generated a good income and paved way for job opportunities in the North are now no more. The Government has planned several projects under the `Northern Spring’ Program.

The Jaffna peninsula suffered immensely and was in a state of hopelessness. Now there are many avenues open to prosper. We have to tap all those resources which remained dormant due to war conditions.

The thinking of the Jaffna man with regard to economic and industrial activities is now more global with extensive interaction with the Jaffna expatriates. Therefore I see enormous opportunities lay ahead for enhanced industrial investment in the North.

Q: How do you expect the Tamil diaspora to respond in rebuilding the North?

A: They could contribute in a big way in rebuilding Jaffna.The Tamil expatriates are living in wealthy western countries and they have even been contributing significantly in their chosen professions in such countries. In the past when the peace processes were carried out they returned to Jaffna with great hopes to make investments and launch new ventures. But they could not succeed in their plans. However, today with the dawn of peace we could expect more contributions from the Tamil expatriates towards rebuilding the war-torn North.

Already the Tamil expatriates are contributing significantly to their old schools, charity organisations and other humanitarian activities.But they could play a bigger role in enhancing the educational activities in the North. Despite the turbulent conditions, the Jaffna students have done very well in their studies.

The Tamil expatriates are doing extremely well with regard to information technology abroad. So they must take the initiative to develop information technology in the North. Being the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna I am certain that information technology will largely improve the prospects in the North.

However, the Government must see that the expatriates are comfortable with their dealings in the county. A conducive atmosphere should be created for them to spearhead their plans and projects without any hindrance.

Q: What have you got to say on the recent meeting of Lankan Tamil and Muslim political parties in Switzerland?

A: A new political thinking is essential as far as the future political aspects of the minority parties are concerned. The Swiss move to make the minority parties to work in unison to reach their goals is significant. From the very beginning of the political history in Sri Lanka the Tamil parties have failed in providing a good leadership for their people.

Not only the Tamil leaders who believed in the democratic process, even the militant leaders who took up arms to realise the political aspirations of the Tamils have failed miserably. Therefore, the minority parties cannot hang on to the old political values any more. They should prepare themselves to provide a new leadership to lead their people in the right direction.

Q: What is your comment on the announcement of the Presidential polls early next year?

A: My personal opinion is that President Mahinda Rajapaksa should complete the full period of his first term in office. Some remarkable developments have taken place during his four-year period in office. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has created a peaceful atmosphere by bringing an end to the war in the North and the East. There are signs of economic recovery in the country. I think he is more acceptable to the people.

Q: How do you read the pulse of the people in the North with regard to the current political trend in the country?

A: It is too early to comment on how the people of Jaffna will respond to the forthcoming polls. It is for the first time in several years the people in the North and the East will get the opportunity to exercise their franchise in a peaceful atmosphere.

The North is now gradually recovering from the wounds of war. The political parties based in the North are yet to activate their political functions with regard to forthcoming polls. So we have to be patient until the election gathers momentum, to make the predictions.


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