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Sunday, 30 June 2013

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NPC polls befuddles opportunists

Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya said last week that the elections to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) will most probably be held either on September 21 or 28. He said the Government has allocated the funds to conduct the NPC elections.

The Commissioner said that the Registration of Electors Act No 44 of 1980 was amended to provide an opportunity to those displaced due to terrorism to exercise their franchise. The duration to apply for registration has been extended till July 5 to enable voters in the Northern Province to exercise their democratic right at the NPC polls. This would help people in the North, whose democratic right had been suppressed by the LTTE, to elect leaders of their choice.

The Government has called upon voters to exercise their franchise at the forthcoming NPC elections and, moreover, they could forward their applications for registration in the electoral list through the Grama Niladharis, who could certify the names of displaced persons.

This laudable move will help restore the voting rights of displaced persons due to the abominable terror unleashed by Velupillai Prabhakaran and his goons. Around 20,000 persons are presumed to be still living outside their places of residence. The Commissioner of Elections has said that the majority of displaced persons had also registered themselves in their current places of residence.

Many people had expressed reservations whether the Government would go ahead with the NPC polls. Although President Mahinda Rajapaksa had pledged last year to hold the NPC elections in September 2013, the Opposition politicians were doubtful that the elections would be a reality.

The ongoing controversy on the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and debate on land and police powers vested in Provincial Councils made certain Opposition politicians feel that the NPC elections would not see the light of day.

Despite all overwhelming odds and the negative experience of former NPC Chief Minister Vartharaja Perumal overstepping his powers, President Rajapaksa has decided that people in the North should be given an opportunity to exercise their democratic right and elect people of their choice to run the provincial administration.

No sooner the country was liberated from the clutches of LTTE terror, Opposition political parties such as the UNP and the TNA demanded that NPC elections should be held without delay. However, the Government turned down those requests at the time as the environment was not conducive to hold elections as demining operations and resettlement of displaced persons had not been completed.

Now that those tasks have been successfully accomplished, the time is now opportune for people in the North to elect their leaders to take over the provincial administration.

During the past four years since the LTTE leadership was vanquished, the Government had not only resettled displaced persons in their original homes and cleared hundreds of thousands of deadly landmines planted by the LTTE, but had also developed infrastructure facilities in the North. This enabled people in the North to get a new lease of life with enhanced living standards.

More importantly, thousands of ex-LTTE cadres have been rehabilitated and absorbed into mainstream civil society along with life skills. Hence, a new chapter was opened in their lives.

The LTTE's former women's wing leader, Siva Subramanium Sivahami alias Thamilini was released last week from the Poonthotam Rehabilitation Centre in Vavuniya. According to sources close to Thamilini, she plans to contest the forthcoming NPC elections. This indeed speaks volumes and is a positive sign which could send a strong signal to the international community.

It is heartening to note that Tamil youth such as Thamilini, who had been brainwashed by Prabhakaran to repose faith in the bullet, has now had a change of heart. It is only now that they realised that Prabhakaran had created a fantasy separate state to enrol Tamil youth in his terrorist outfit.

These Tamil youth could no longer be made suckers by opportunist Tamil politicians who make desperate attempts to succeed Prabhakaran with a 'democratic face'. They have understood the stark reality that the Sinhalese are not their enemy, as was projected by the wily Prabhakaran.

In point of fact, it was the Sinhalese youth in the Security Forces who had sacrificed their life and limb to liberate those Tamils from LTTE terror. Those who now shed buckets of crocodile tears over Tamil youth never uttered even a word of comfort when these hapless youth and innocent children were forcibly dragged away from their homes to take up arms against the Government.

The dawn of peace has opened endless opportunities for the Northern youth to join even the Security Forces which Prabhakaran projected as an enemy of the Tamils. Contrary to what Prabhakaran had done for over two decades, the Security Forces and police have given opportunities to the Northern youth to serve the nation.

The Northern youth have also been afforded opportunities to seek employment in the public sector. The Government has provided state employment for over 6,000 Northern youth. The appointment letters for these youth were presented by Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda at a ceremony at the Weerasingham Hall, Jaffna.

Moreover, graduates of the Northern Province have been provided government sector jobs whilst casual employees have been made permanent. Over 1,000 voluntary teachers who had served in the North for a long period have been made permanent and another 653 teachers will also be made permanent in due course under the Government's long-term plan of providing employment to Northern youth.

The newly appointed personnel have pledged to extend their fullest cooperation for the ongoing development projects with a commitment to serve the public.

Forty-four Tamil Police Sub Inspectors and 110 Woman Sub Inspectors had joined the Police since last week. A new batch of 215 Woman Police Constables also passed out from the Kalutara Police Training School recently.

Posting Tamil-speaking officers to their native regions would not only help overcome the present difficulties of communication between the public and the police, but also boost public confidence in the civil law enforcement authority in the region.

The Government has also implemented far-reaching programs to expedite the return of normalcy in the former battle-torn areas. Billions of rupees have been expended on major infrastructure development projects in the North which had recorded a growth rate of over 22 percent.

The NPC elections come at a time opportunist Opposition politicians in the South are trying to capitalise on the ongoing talks on the 13th Amendment. Rather than living in a dream world to capture power at any cost, it is the bounden duty of Opposition political parties to take part in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to reach a decision that suits the country best. At a time the President is making a sincere and concerted effort in national reconciliation to strengthen coexistence among all communities, his recent Poson message is an eye-opener to one and all - building confidence among people of different ethnicities.

President Rajapaksa, in his Poson Day message, emblazoned that we, as a nation that respects the teachings of the Buddha, must shun differences of race, religion, caste and geography. He stressed that we should march towards progress by giving the highest priority to the principles of tolerance ensuring unity and determination.

These words of wisdom are no doubt food for thought for those who make a song and dance to gain petty political mileage from the ongoing debate on the 13th Amendment. What matters most is to preserve the hard-earned peace and the peaceful coexistence among all communities.

While protecting the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, all Sri Lankans should make a determined effort to unite all communities under the Lion flag.

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