Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran says had Mahinda Rajapaksa genuinely worked with them as he promised on 2 January 2014, he would not be in this predicament. “Now it is too late for Mahinda,” he said. He added, “As for my ‘strong Tamil nationalism’, I reflect the minds of the people of the North and East. We must get out of the mindset that a political settlement in Sri Lanka is based on the large heartedness of any particular community. It must come out of the genuine desire of all communities to live in amity and peace. It is true that the year 1833 brought disparate communities under one central administration and the 1948 Constitution gave an edge to the majority community.”
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Following are excerpts:
? You recently accused the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians from the Northern Province of obtaining funds from the Central Government and on the negligence of the Central Government in allocating adequate funds for the NPC. Is your relationship with the TNA and the government becoming sour?
A: Certainly not. I saw the possibility of the Centre trying to drive a wedge between the Provincial Administration and the Tamil Parliamentarians. In fact, they still do by appointing Members of Parliament to the District and Divisional Coordinating Meetings, which has a tendency to undermine the provincial administration. I have written to the President about the consequences. So my actions were more in the form of pointing out the shortcomings rather than criticizing anyone. My relationship with both the government and the TNA leadership is quite cordial.
? Certain groups of the Tamil Diaspora say the TNA does not have national endorsement to receive funds from the Tamil Diaspora community who are willing to give generously to help the families affected by the war. Is this the worry you have?
A: I believe that permission from the External Resources Department is necessary to bring in funds. With the Chief Minister’s Fund we would have a nominee of the Governor in the Board of Trustees who most probably might be an officer from the ERD who will monitor all funding. Therefore, it would be possible to attract diaspora funds with the collaboration and consent of the ERD when the CM’s Fund comes into being. But, I must say as it is, my application to proceed with tying up with a local authority in a foreign country was ignored by the Foreign Minister until our Prime Minister was kind enough to show the green light. The diaspora is aware of the nuances of the behavioural patterns of those in authority in this country.
? Is there a move by the TNA to remove you from the CM post due to the ‘conflict of interest’ between the two?
A: You must ask that from those whom you perceive as the likely culprits! But let me assure you my relationship with Mr. Sampanthan and
Mr. Mavai Senathirajah is excellent.
? The government has not made any effort in responding to your demand for a federal system while the President says a political solution should come from the South. Do you intend to ‘educate’ the South on this and how will you do it?
A: Certainly the South must be educated. Otherwise, could such erudite persons like my dear friend, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, say that Federalism is separation? I think he got first class in his Law College Examinations. Similarly, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who wrote books on Law, says Federalism is separation. The southern politicians have made out so far that Federalism is separation and the people have started accepting that. The truth is Federalism binds the people, not separate them. Well, by answering your question, I am educating the South.
? Some note that your strong Tamil nationalism will only pave the way for Mahinda and likeminded people who are working on a ‘comeback strategy’. Do you agree?
A:You must look into Mahinda’s horoscope to find out whether he is coming back! If only he had genuinely worked with us as he promised us on 2 January 2014, he would not be in this predicament. Now it is too late for Mahinda.
As for my ‘strong Tamil nationalism’ let me tell you I reflect the minds of the people of the North and East. If you come over and live among our people in the North you will also project the aspirations of the people of the North.
We must get out of the mindset that a political settlement in Sri Lanka is based on the large heartedness of any particular community. It must come out of the genuine desire of all communities to live in amity and peace. It is true that the year 1833 brought disparate communities under one central administration and the 1948 Constitution gave an edge to the majority community. But now it is high time to examine all aspects of our relationships so far and pave the way for a long lasting settlement to our conflicts in order that this country could go forward with the joint efforts and cooperation of all communities.
? The government, the Joint Opposition as well as the international community claim the LTTE is regrouping and is active. In your view, is the LTTE regrouping?
A:There is absolutely no evidence of regrouping by any militant groups in the North or East seven years after the end of the War. But, certain interested parties are no doubt trying to make out that there is regrouping just to keep the Armed Forces amidst us.
?You have been cited as a ‘problem creator’ in the Tamil political circle, disrupting the TNA political agendas as they seek to work with the government. What is your take on this?
A: If anyone says there are no problems then there can be no solutions too. I am only reiterating what was said in our Election Manifesto. Not a word more or less.
? You have slammed the Centre for lack of funds for the NPC. However, there is a claim that the funds given already to the NPC were underutilized and had to be returned to the Treasury. Why didn’t you use the funds?
A: This is the umpteenth time I am saying we have used over 98% of the funds given to us last year. By telling a lie a million times just like Goebbels, you cannot make falsehood a truth. Anyway, I have instructed my officers to put out an official statement regarding the spending last year. It will come within a week.
?There are scores of issues related to education, violence against women and children, alcoholism, poverty and housing for the IDPs, water and sanitation, welfare centres and land issues. What are the problems preventing implementing programmes mentioned for the above?
A: Problem is money. Lack of capacitated and dedicated officials sometimes has its impact too. We are working on all these.
? You have also angered many Tamil politicians and Southerners by tabling a genocide resolution when a peace building exercise is in progress. They are of the view that you have neglected the NPC’s economic development. What do you have to say?
A: Genocide Resolution is a truthful document that sets out what happened so far. Speaking the truth if it hurts someone then what you are asking me is why you don’t tell lies so that there would be peace. For the sake of peace pretend nothing happened so far. If peace is sure to dawn one might consider your suggestion. But as it is there is no chance of peace dawning with 150,000 armed military men cozily staying put in our part of the country.
I have not neglected the economic development of our people. We are working on it. But, we are careful that economic benefits are not dangled before us so that we lose sight of our political needs and necessities. There is a feeling in the South if they throw some crumbs to the Tamils in the form of economic benefits we would compromise on our political claims. We would not. Or may I say we should not. If we do, there will not be a Tamil speaking entity in this country before long. Already there is rapid colonization of the North with the help of the Armed Forces. Fishermen who were migrants coming from South seasonally are being facilitated to take permanent residency in the eastern coast in Mullaitivu. I know many a Tamil person who has now become almost a naturalized Sinhalese just as much as Tamils in the western coast, north of Wattala who a century ago were Tamil speaking have become Sinhalese now. They sought economic benefits, did not claim political benefits and thereby finally succumbed.
? What is your view on the progress of UN/US resolution co-sponsored by the government? Where do we stand?
A:Progress appears very slow. The government does not seem to have the will to go through with the terms of the Resolution. While they point to the coming back of Mahinda as the cause for their tardy progress their real reason is they do not want to identify the wrongdoers among their community whom they consider erroneously as heroes. Let us wait and see. The international community has a huge responsibility in this regard to enable justice to be brought to those affected.
? The Provincial Ministries of Social Welfare, Rehabilitation and Women Affairs have been taken over by you. What’s the reason?
A: The Departments of Social Welfare and others were under my ministry. When I found I lacked capacity to run them I shared not only these departments but other departments too with my other ministers in 2014 latter part. Thereafter I was able to beef up my staff and bring capable people into my ministry. I now have a Senior Female Secretary to my ministry. She has handled these affairs during the latter part of the war successfully. Further I found that Social Service, Rehabilitation and Women’s Affairs are best brought under the same ministry as land and resettlement, especially when the formation of the CM’s Fund is in the offing.
? Have your NPC Members asked for a replacement of all your ministers? Are there votes of no confidence contemplated against them? What is your response?
A: They have. 16 Members have asked for a change. Their request is under consideration.
Meanwhile, there are efforts by another group to bring votes of no confidence, first against one minister and thereafter against the others. This appears to be a mud-slinging exercise. I had told in the House openly that if there are any complaints against ministers such complaints must be handed over to me with the relevant evidence, even if they are against me, and that I would have a credible, impartial inquiry by competent persons to be undertaken and I would act on their findings. The idea seems to be to use the privilege of the council to sling mud at persons and have them published in the papers. Mere mouthing of offences cannot amount to culpability. There was one Member who openly threatened to go to the Bribery Commission over a month ago regarding the same matter. It appears he has not. Some are trying to use the council to wash dirty linen for reasons best known to them.
? You have also called to open a separate CM Fund to function the NPC, locking heads with other stakeholders. What is the reason for asking a separate Chief Minister’s Fund? This has been quoted by the Tamil Diaspora that is supporting you.
A: Former Governor Palihakkara, a very senior Public Servant now retired, was of the view that having a Governor’s account was wrong and he did away with it. CM’s accounts have been opened by many Provincial Councils.
?You have hailed Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jeyalalithaa on her recent election victory who said she will continue to press New Delhi to get justice for Tamils in the North. She intends to meet you at a ‘mutually convenient time’. Do you think the Government of India that was criticized by the Tamil Nadu politicians for being part of the ‘dirty war’, will be able to engage in solving the Tamil political issue? How can TN Chief Minister help you? When do you intend to meet her?
A: Many questions you should pose to someone in India you are posing to me. I did get a reply from the CM of Tamil Nadu as you have referred. When suitable we will meet.
? Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told senior Army officials recently that the judicial mechanism mandated by a UN resolution will not include foreign participation but only local judges, despite the binding resolutions calling for international involvement. What is your final decision on this move?
A: As I said earlier, the government lacks the will to proceed with the Resolution to bring justice to those affected. Their political considerations take precedence. Local Judges will not be fit to hear these cases. There was a book by three Sinhalese Lawyers sometime ago referring to the bias among our judges.
? Minister Champika Ranawaka remarked, if you act in violation of judicial orders and attempt to call for international intervention in national affairs, you should be arrested by the law enforcement authorities? Your response?
A: I must ask for legal opinion to answer that question