BY SULOCHANA RAMIAH MOHAN
Chief Minister Northern Province C. V. Wigneswaran said the replacement of the military Governors in the North and East with members of foreign and civil services (Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara), combined with measures such as the removal of the travel restrictions to the North, signifies a symbolic step in the right direction in commencing the process to restore civilian administration and also hopefully in addressing the issue of demilitarisation.
Long term political issues cannot be resolved overnight even if there is goodwill on both sides. It requires the building of trust and for that the freedom of information and the exchange of ideas have to be fostered. The previous regime painted the Tamils as terrorists bent on partitioning Sri Lanka and the Muslims as extremists. We need to overhaul that idea and show that we are co-owners of this resplendent isle committed to pluralism, democracy and non-violence. Both sides need to acknowledge the atrocities and crimes committed during the war, and justice should be meted out. Sweeping injustices and crimes under the carpet cannot evolve a solution, it can only fester resentment and animosity.
The Chief Minister in his speech, Monday (2), at the Sri Lanka Development and Administration added that in striving to enforce national -State security, we forgot that governments are elected to ensure ‘human security’, which encapsulates economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. Besides, it is also important to understand the root causes of the ethnic conflict namely the structural causes and the denial of collective security of the Tamils of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.”
He further stressed the steps taken by the fledgling government indicate that it has jettisoned the repressive notion of ‘National-State Security’ and embarked on a course towards ‘human security’. “This kind of course correction is a long and arduous task. It needs reforms across many sectors.”
“The steps taken by the government to replace the unconstitutionally appointed Chief Secretary of the Northern Province with a constitutional appointment, and its courageous decision to reinstate the de jure Chief Justice and oust the de facto Chief Justice, whose purported appointment cast an indelible stain on the history of our Judiciary, demonstrates the government’s commitment to restore the rule of law,” he said.
He opined that many more difficult decisions would have to be made if they are to heal wounds, build trust, and progress as a country adding that the government’s task, particularly in the context of the forthcoming general elections, is extremely difficult.
“What my constituents in the Northern Province would like the government to understand is that they have borne the brunt of the war like no other in the country. To give it some perspective around 6-7% of our population consists of War Widows. Thousands of acres of land are still occupied by the Military, which continues to be engaged in commercial, agricultural and leisure activities to the exclusion of the owners of those lands. Therefore, we cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ policy for the North or the East. Those of my friends here who are lawyers will appreciate that the treatment of unequals equally amounts to discrimination. I would like to table my speech on that occasion, which sets out our view on the policy changes that are essential for post war socio-economic development in the Northern Province,” he relayed.