by Shamindra Ferdinando
In the wake of the government giving up a section of the Jaffna High Security Zone (HSZ) last Monday (March 23), Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe will undertake a three-day visit to examine the situation in the Northern Province.
The Premier will commence his visit today (March 27) with religious observances at Naga Viharaya.
The Premier will briefly meet Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians representing the Northern Province, security forces’ top brass in the North, civil society organizations as well as senior officials handling resettlement and rehabilitated ex-cadres of the LTTE. Representatives of northern fisheries societies, too, will meet the Premier.
Except for 49 ex-LTTE cadres held at a rehabilitation camp at Poonthottam, the previous government released all those who had surrendered or captured during eelam war IV.
The UNP leader is scheduled to meet TNA parliamentarians at the Jaffna District Secretariat at 11 am today after having participated in a special programme at the Weerasingham hall conducted countrywide to provide nutritious food to expectant mothers.
Premier Wickremesinghe last Monday joined President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga at an event in Jaffna to release 425 acres of land in Vasavilan east held by the military for over 2 decades. The government recently declared that the government would release 1,000 acres of the existing Jaffna HSZ covering both Palaly and Kankesanthurai sectors before the end of this year.
According to Prime Minister’s Office, Wickremesinghe will have a series of meetings in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. During the first day of the northern tour, the Premier will meet Bishop of Jaffna of the Church of South India Rt. Rev. Daniel Selvaratnam Thiagarajah and Jaffna Bishop Rt. Rev. Thomas Saundranayagam.
The Premier will also visit Palaly air base, northern naval headquarters at Kankesanthurai as well as meeting a cross section of security forces officers at Palaly security forces headquarters tomorrow (March 28).
Wickremesinghe will receive a briefing from the military as regards post-war developments in the region.
Security Forces Commander, Jaffna Maj. Gen. Nandana Udawatte will receive the Premier on his arrival at the Jaffna area headquarters. Udawatte, formerly the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the 59 Division liberated LTTE bastion Mullaitivu in late Dec 2008 during the eelam war IV.
UNP sources told The Island that the Premier was keen to examine the ground situation in the Northern Province in the run-up to the next parliamentary election. Sources said that the government was engaged in an accelerated project to bring relief to war weary northerners. Responding to a query, sources said that the government was exploring ways and means of working with elected representatives of the Northern Province to bring relief to the civilian community.
However, other sources asserted that a section of the TNA had been unhappy over Wickremesinghe’s recent criticism of the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran. Sources said that the UNP and the TNA wanted to work towards the rapid improvement of the situation in war-torn areas.
In an exclusive with Tamil Nadu’s Thanthi TV, Wickremesinghe declared that he could work with elected representatives in parliament representing the Northern Province and wouldn’t meet Wigneswaran.