COLOMBO: People in the Tamil-majority Northern Province of Sri Lanka are keeping their fingers crossed about the changes that may follow the removal of “military man” Maj.Gen (Retd).G.A.Chandrasiri from the post of Governor, and his replacement by a civilian, H.M.G.S.Palihakkara.
“On the one hand we are happy that one of our key demands, that the Governor should be a civilian and not one with a military background, has been met. But on the other, we are not very optimistic that the change will be for the better. We hope Palihakkara will cooperate with us,” said C.V.K.Sivagnanam, Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC).
However, Sivagnanam conceded that the Sirisena government has taken “some positive first steps” such as the appointment of a civilian Governor; declaration of an intent to form a committee to release private Tamil lands from the grip of the army; and ordering the release of Tamil detainees against whom no cases have been filed for long.
Suresh Premachandran, spokesman of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), described the replacement as a “progressive step” but he recalled that Palihakkara, as the Lankan Permanent Representative at the UN, had denied that the Lankan government was violating human rights.
“If he shows goodwill, we will reciprocate. But we will have to wait and see if he will bow to pressure from Sinhala extremists in the Sirisena government like the Jathika Hela Urumaya,” commented M.K. Sivajilingam, member of the NPC.
TNA MP, M.A.Sumanthiran felt that there could be a working relationship between the elected NPC and the Government as “Palihakkara is a very fair minded man”.
In Colombo, political commentator Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka said that Palihakkara is an “excellent choice” because he has the necessary “diplomatic skills” to function in an emerging environment which may see significant changes in Centre-Periphery relations, following the drastic pruning of the powers of the Executive Presidency.