Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran says that an inclusive society cannot be built upon counter-terrorism mindset and state security perspectives and that a heavy military presence in the province lays the foundation for violence.
Addressing the National Thaipongal Festival in Jaffna today, he said that the 16th goal of the UN’s 2013 agenda for sustainable development calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective accountable and inclusive institutions to all levels.
“This is indeed what we Tamils of this country are interested in,” he said. The Chief Minister said the 16th goal firstly says that we need to reduce all forms of violence. “Unfortunately we in the North do not enjoy such a luxury.”
The fact that an estimated 150,000 armed men belonging to an occupational army is stationed in the Northern Province six long years after the end of the war necessarily lays the foundation for violence, he said.
“Are we therefore in a fit state of mind to celebrate Thaipongal?” he asked.
However, he added, that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had said he is taking some steps with regard to the lands and that he welcomes the latter’s suggestion.
The 16th goals secondly says that we need to promote the rule of law at national and international level and ensure equal access to justice for all. But we are continuing with our “draconian” Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), he charged.
“Does it ensure equal access to justice for all? A dubious confession has been made the cause for continued incarceration,” Wigneswaran stated.
He emphasized that an inclusive society cannot be built upon counter-terrorism mindset and state security perspectives.
“We must instead have a human mindset and people security perspective which means rule of law at the local government level, provincial council level and national level to ensure human security in this country.”
He stated that the recent finding of secret torture chambers and the sudden release of persons who have been in enforced incarceration for long periods prove that accountability and transparency are lacking.
“I am sorry to say that politically our Northern Provincial Council is being undermined by the central government at all levels. Projects are decided by the Center and foisted on us top to bottom,” he claimed.
In short, the provincial councils are thought of as an aberration that needs to be suffered by the government, the chief minister said.
He charged that discriminatory laws are still in place and that in practice it is far more irritating.
“Looking from a macro standpoint, let me say we have to improve ourselves as a country very much. We have inherited prejudices and wrong notions. We have inherited violent thoughts and hatred. We need to jettison such notions and thoughts and prejudices.”
“Maybe Thaipongal is an ideal opportunity to rethink and retrace,” he said.
He stated that the international community can provide support in this regard and that it is vital the government of Sri Lanka is supported by the international community based on the principle of affirmative action to ensure a level playing field and fiscal and budgetary equalization measures.
“Though Sri Lanka is regarded as a middle income country, we in the Northern Province are lagging far, far behind. We are below par.”
“May this Thaipongal usher in a better future for all of us,” he said in conclusion.
Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and Britain’s Foreign Office Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, also participated in the National Thaipongal Festival held in Jaffna.