It was DEW Gunasekera who publicly stated that the Tamil people are also OUR people; more than 80% of Buddhists of our country worship Hindu deities, the best example was that of our former President Mahinda Rajapaksa going to Thirupathy to get the blessings of the presiding deity of the temple. There were many who have come from places such as Kerala and brought their cuisine with them, settled in the South and became Sinhalese. We had a 30- year war with a Tamil terrorist group and not with the Tamil people of our country. Our relationship with the Tamil people is one of a kind.
"Recommencing domestic agriculture, if the inputs are provided, would be the easiest because agriculture is the traditional occupation of the people, but we need to ensure that good marketing facilities and agricultural credit is provided"
The Sirisena-Government should be congratulated on its choice of former Ambassador and Foreign Secretary HMGS Pallihakkara, who was also a member of the LLRC, for the post of Governor of the Northern Province, the Government could not have made a better choice. To say that many Tamil friends are expressing their delight and are looking forward to better days for their province, is an understatement. They say that knowing Mr. Pallihakkara he will get on with the Chief Minister and the problems will be resolved with understanding and empathy.
Many in the South of our country lump all Tamils together and don’t know the sociology of the North and of the caste system in the North and that a particular caste took over from the upper caste Vellalas, who had ruled over them cruelly for centuries. The LTTE which comprised mainly of one of the other castes hated the Vellalas and killed no less than 27 Tamil leaders, all of them of the Vellela caste, starting with the Mayor Duraiyappa, Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran, Joseph Pararajasingham, Thambimuttu among several others including Lakshman Kadirgamar.
After the Pogrom of July ‘83 the Vellalas, most of whom were the Crème of Tamil society --intellectuals, lawyers, engineers, doctors, administrators and scientists left the country to Europe and Australia where they were welcomed with open arms, They are the Tamil Diaspora which is alleged to have funded the LTTE which fought their cause. The LTTE conscripted the poor youth of the lower castes of the North and even children to fight for them. The hundreds who died were the poor peasants of the North. The hundreds of widows and children without fathers are evidence of that sad situation. The people of the North lived under the cruel dictatorship of Prabhakaran for more than thirty years and that is a fact which we in the South do not realise. We must now reach out to them because they are our own and are Sri Lankans as much as we are.
The biggest challenge for sustainable peace and development of the country will be to bring back the Tamil community to the mainstream of nation -building from having a feeling of being marginalized.
The Armed Services will of course need to extend their fullest cooperation to make a success of this effort to win the hearts and minds of these people. In this regard we are fortunate to have in General Daya Ratnayake, who has served as Consul General for Rehabilitation and who has also served in the North, a person who related to the people of the North with understanding and empathy. From all reports some of the Army units had done a tremendous job of winning over the people.
We must empower the people to manage their own affairs. Mobilising the people of the 923 villages, first at Grama Niladari level, next at Divisional level and subsequently at District level, while being a challenge, should not be difficult as we already have the administrative infrastructure in place despite the war.
The example of the Cultivation Committee system under the Paddy Lands Act of 1958 would be worth re-introducing. Each village elected its own Cultivation Committee, the system worked very well until the left-oriented government of 1970 threw overboard the apolitical elective system and appointed, yes appointed party lackeys to Cultivation Committees and killed off that valuable exercise. Each Grama Niladari division could elect its own apolitical Gramaraj and a President and Secretary. Next these village level Gramarajs can elect the Divisional level Gramaraj --- this can be the start of an apolitical peoples’ movement which will empower the people and effectively address their problems.
This will also contribute towards the ending of the curse of confrontational party politics, which has been the bane of our country.
Recommencing domestic agriculture, if the inputs are provided, would be the easiest because agriculture is the traditional occupation of the people, but we need to ensure that good marketing facilities and agricultural credit is provided. Other occupations should also be introduced such as the Thai craft village concept. The teaching of IT to the youth must be given priority. Education has been the way to true liberation in the past for the Tamil people and if a good education system is put in place they would take to education like ducks to water. There is no doubt that expatriates would also send money to their relatives and a Grameen Bank system could be started especially for the Northern Province people who are thrifty by nature, The people of the Northern Province were known to have had the best un-corrupted cooperative system in the country and I have little doubt that they will make a success of such a venture as a Cooperative Bank for their own people.
Engaging the people by giving them back their dignity and making them feel they are equal citizens of this country will help to make a reality of the reconciliation and development process and will without doubt, ensure its success. I am certain that the necessary political commitment is present today.
To conclude may I on behalf of everyone wish Governor Pallihakkara the very best ----- we are certain he will succeed in winning the hearts and minds of our Tamil brethren.