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A Northern Path to Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

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  • 7/27/2019 A Northern Path to Reconciliation in Sri Lanka


    A Northern Path to Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

    Image courtesy USA Herald

    by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan - on 10/21/2013 Northern People Humble the Peoples Dynasty

    I salute the people of the Northern Province for showing the door to the self-proclaimed Peoples Dynasty; the only province in the country to do so,which is a glimmer of hope for re-establishment of democracy in thecountry. Although I am not a fan of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Iwholeheartedly welcome its landslide win in the Northern Provincial Council(NPC) elections as a symbolic defeat of corruption, crime, cronyism,militarism, and nepotism of the Rajapaksa regime.Avoid TriumphalismHowever, it is only the beginning of a long road ahead. The TNA should notask for the sun and the moon and squander this golden opportunity as didLTTE at every single opportunity that was offered to it during the twenty-

    five years from 1985 (Thimbu talks) to 2009 (end of civil war). TNA shouldnot also follow President Rajapaksa and sweep the past, particularly of the

    Tamil community in pursuit of liberation, under the carpet and indulge intriumphalism as a result of the unprecedented mandate it has receivedfrom the northern people. The mandate received by the TNA in 2013 washigher than its predecessor TULF received in 1977 at the parliamentaryelections. (Read The Myth of no more minoritiesby this author)

    True political leadership is to be magnanimous in victory, which is what the

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    President of Sri Lanka sorely lacked in the aftermath of the total defeat ofthe LTTE in May 2009 but this author presently expects from the first-everChief Minister of the Northern Province. It is such magnanimity in historicvictory that will elevate the moral ground of the Tamil minority communityvis--vis its political aspirations.Northern Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    With the right to self-rule come responsibilities as well. Firstly, the NPCshould forge reconciliation with the minority communities of the NorthernProvince, viz. Muslim and Sinhala communities, for the injustices meted-outto them during the course of the so-called liberation struggle. If the Tamilminority community is to demand parity of status at the national level, the

    Tamil majority community in the North should afford parity of status to theminority communities of the North and thereby lead by example. If the

    Tamil minority community is to demand reparations for the losses incurredduring ethnic riots and civil war from the national government, the Tamilmajority community in the NP should pay reparations to losses incurred by

    the minority communities (especially the Muslim community) in the North.Constitution of a Northern Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be apriority for the newly elected NPC in order to investigate, for example, themassacre of civilians in Anuradhapura in 1985 and the massacre of civiliansliving in the border areas throughout the civil war, expulsion of the Muslimcommunity en-masse from the NP in 1991 and confiscation of their movableand immovable assets and properties, and the killing of Tamil intellectualsbeginning from the killing of St. Johns College Principal Mr. Anandarajah in1985, Dr. Rajani Thiranagama (nee Rajasingam) of the University of Jaffna in1989, Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam in 1999, Mr. Ketheshwaran Loganathan in

    2006, et al. The foregoing are few examples that could be expanded.If the Tamil community is to demand national or international investigationsinto the unnecessary loss of civilian lives during the last stages of the civilwar, it is imperative for the Tamil community to investigate unnecessarykilling of civilians from the regional minority communities and intellectualsfrom its own community during the time of the civil war by its newly electedNPC.Equal Opportunities LegislationAn Equal Opportunities Act should be enacted in the Northern Province inorder to inculcate merit-based governance of public administration, public

    and private decision making, and corporate governance in the province.The proposed Equal Opportunities Act should outlaw discrimination in termsof caste, disability, ethnicity, gender, regional origin, and religion.

    This exemplary legislation should be a role model worthy of emulation forother provincial governments and the national government in the country.Language Parity

    The Tamil community has been demanding parity of status as regards theuse of Tamil language in any part of the country which is legitimate. Now

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    there is an opportunity for the NP to offer parity of status to its ownminority community, viz. the Sinhala community, as regards the use ofSinhala language in the North. The NPC has to deliver (at the regional level)what it demands (at the national level) in order to take moral upper handvis--vis the national socialist regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa.For example, the street name boards within the TNA-administered Point

    Pedro Urban Council area are in all three languages (English, Sinhala, andTamil), which is welcome. However, the street name boards within the TNA-administered Valvettithurai Urban Council area are only in English and Tamillanguages. Why is this difference in treatment of the regional minoritylanguage? TNA should pursue common policy in such matters so that all

    TNA-administered local authorities follow the same common policy.Illicit Appropriation of Private Property

    The TNA has been demanding the vacation of private houses, properties,and lands forcibly occupied by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna (since 1996when the SLA wrested control of the peninsula from the LTTE) and mainland

    Vanni districts of the Northern Province (NP). Hypocritically, constituentpolitical parties of the TNA (e.g. PLOTE and TELO) have been forciblyoccupying private houses and lands in the districts of Mannar and Vavuniyafor a long time (since the late-1980s) and continue to do so even to thisday. The TNA should practice what it preaches; therefore as a moralexample to the SLA all private houses and lands occupied by constituentpolitical parties of the TNA should be vacated and handed back to thelawful owners (even if they live abroad now) with immediate effect.Development and Investment PrioritiesNot only the Rajapaksa government got its priorities wrong as regards

    development of the North (especially the Vanni), the Tamil community alsohas got its priorities wrong in terms of development. Throughout the North,including in the impoverished Vanni mainland, places of religious worship(especially Hindu temples) are lavishly rehabilitated, reconstructed, and/orredecorated at an exorbitant cost financially sponsored mainly by the TamilDiaspora, whilst people of the Vanni are living in squalor in their huts madeout of clay or tins without basic amenities such as toilets, clean and safewater, and electricity supply.I can understand and appreciate the divine solace sought by brutalisedpopulation in places of religious worship. Nevertheless, when fundamental

    human needs are unheeded and unmet, what is the moral and ethicalimperative for extravagant expenditure on places of worship? What thepeople in the North, especially in the Vanni, urgently need are factories andplaces of production of goods and services that create employmentopportunities for unemployed youths and wider masses. According to ourestimation, 27.4% of the eligible working age population (15-59 years old)in the North is unemployed either voluntarily or involuntarily, which is thehighest unemployment rate in the country (total number of unemployed

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    persons in the province 123,209 according to theAnnual Labour ForceSurvey 2012 divided by total number of eligible working-age persons inthe province 450,000 according to Census 2012 and multiplied by onehundred).Furthermore, I would strongly argue the case for unlocking huge financialresources and physical assets amassed by various faith-based institutions

    in the North for the purpose of development finance in the NP. The ChiefMinister being a devout Hindu and having rapport with faith-basedinstitutions should persuade wealthy Hindu temples to contribute lavishlyfor the development thrust of the NPC.Caste CensusHistorically, discrimination, dispossession, and exclusion of large number ofnorthern people based on caste division of society have been debilitatingthe Tamil community. Therefore, first-ever census of caste in the NP needsto be undertaken in order to introduce affirmative policies to lift significantproportion of the Tamil population out of social marginalisation. If the Tamil

    community vies for political parity of status vis--vis other ethniccommunities in the country, it should afford the same to its own social andeconomic minorities in the North.

    The caste division of Tamil society cannot be swept under the carpet likethe Rajapaksa regime is trying to do to the ethnic minorities in the country.Empowermentof WomenWomen are the majority gender in the Northern Province. The Jaffna districthas the highest share of females in its population among the twenty-fivedistricts in the country. Therefore, north