resident Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday re-inaugurated the Yal Devi train service to Jaffna after a lapse of more than two decades.
He also handed over to the owners the gold jewellery that had been pawned in the Thamileela Waippakam or the Tamil Eelam Bank operated by the LTTE during its heyday. Title deeds for lands were also handed over to the people at the ceremony in Kilinochchi on Sunday.
Unfortunately the majority of the northern people’s elected representatives to Parliament or the Northern Provincial Council were not present at these events. Northern Province Chief Minister and retired Supreme Court Judge C.V. Wigneswaran had written to the President informing him that his party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was not in a position to participate at these events and at the District Coordinating Committee meeting because the Government had refused to heed any of the demands made after the institution of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) a year ago.
Recalling some of those demands, the Chief Minister said the Government had gone back on its word in respect of appointing a civilian Governor for the province instead of a former military officer, the appointing of a Chief Secretary who would cooperate with the elected representatives of the northern people and to minimize the military presence in the north.
On the other hand the President, while speaking at Kilinochchi, the then capital of the LTTE’s pseudo state, said the Government had allocated money for a water supply scheme under which water was to be diverted from the South to the Iranamadu Tank and from there to Jaffna, but the TNA leaders had scuttled the project.
“What can I do,” he asked. He said not even 10 per cent of the funds allocated for the development of the North had been utilized by the TNA-run provincial administration and added that the TNA leaders like the proverbial dog in the manger neither carry out these projects nor do they allow the Government to do it.
At a time when a Presidential election is said to be around the corner the strategy behind the President’s speech is understanable. He is trying to drive a wedge between the TNA which cannot be expected to come to the Government’s fold at the next presidential election and its electorate. He seems to do this with a view to win over the Tamils in the face of a sagging popularity of his Government that was indicated at the recently held elections to the Southern, Western and Uva Provincial Councils. The TNA, on its part seems to want to scuttle the Government’s plans to win over the Tamils of the North at its expense.
The overall picture clearly indicates how the matters relating to the rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the North have been politicised by both sides. For instance, if the Northern Province Governor, whoever it is, acts according to the dictates of the central government as accused by the Tamil leaders, what is the point in the TNA demanding the replacement of the incumbent Governor? And the Northern Provincial Council is invariably making a hue and cry over political issues such as the UNHRC investigation against the Sri Lankan government rather than resolving the burning problems of northern people.
Likewise, if the Government wants to help the provincial council in its development moves, as it claims, replacement of the Governor cannot be a problem since the purpose can be achieved through a civilian Governor as well as a retired military officer. Also, the central government is not prohibited by any law from implementing any development projects in the North, just because there is a provincial council.
Northern Province is an area devastated by the 30-year-long war. People in the province are the ones who most need the support of the leaders at the centre as well as the provincial administrations. The parties responsible should compete in providing that support to win over the people and not the other way around.