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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.