by Santhiyago Sudharshan in Jaffna
- Traders, businessman and ordinary people in Jaffna told The Sunday Leader that they have not seen the change they much expected since January 2015
- The occupation of land by the military is also an issue for the people of Jaffna. Northern based Tamil political parties warned that failure to address this and other key issues could result in the government having to face the consequences
- For any human being, living in any part of the world, land is too precious for anyone to give up
- Meeting media heads last week the President said that the resettlement in the North will be completed soon. He said 60 percent of the resettlement has been completed and the rest will be completed soon
The people of Jaffna have put the government on notice. The government has been told to be prepared to lose Tamil votes if the North fails to experience real change sooner than later.
The warning comes as the government completed two years in office this year and prepares to join the country in celebrating the May 2009 defeat of the LTTE.
Traders, businessman and ordinary people in Jaffna told The Sunday Leader that they have not seen the change they much expected since January 2015. Among the expectations of the people of Jaffna were better living conditions, a better local economy, jobs for the youth and a reduction of prices of goods.
The occupation of land by the military is also an issue for the people of Jaffna. Northern based Tamil political parties warned that failure to address this and other key issues could result in the government having to face the consequences.
“This government made several promises before coming to power. They assured us jobs. But our youth have not been given jobs,” said Niresh, a young store keeper in Jaffna town. Niresh also said that the cost of living in Jaffna has gone up with the price of most goods higher than what was expected.
“The price of milk powder was ok soon after the election but now it has gone up. With the salary we get we struggle to meet our daily needs. Most people in Jaffna don’t earn enough to even have a proper meal,” he said.
Niresh says while the government says they are doing a lot for the people in the North, the ground reality is different. The outspoken youth warned that at the next election the people of Jaffna are unlikely to vote for the current government as the hopes they had for a change have been dashed.
Former cadres not freed
Rasan said that the government has not even freed all the former LTTE cadres who were arrested after the war. He accused the government of only looking into their own wellbeing and not the people who voted them into power.
“They have not done much during the 100 days they were in power,” he added. He said the Tamils in the North have now come to a stage where they do not have anyone to turn to when in need.
“The minds of these people need to be put at ease. There is some development taking place in the North but there is no point in such development if the hearts and minds of the people have not been won.
He also said that more than development the people in Jaffna need food and clothing. He said that several children in the North go to school without food. “There are some issues even I face which I cannot tell you. I need to earn for my family. I do that with difficulties,” he said.
Rasan said politicians will go to even a beggar just for a vote but will not look back after the election and if that same man needs food. He said without resolving the issues faced by the Tamils no government can be seen as doing good to its people.
Sivagnanam said that the government has not even completed the housing project to resettle the war displaced families. He said that no matter who is in power in Sri Lanka the people of Jaffna cannot expect anything different.
“They come with their hands together seeking our vote and after they win they lift their hands and go,” he said.
However David, a driver by profession, said that he has no issue with the government and feels they are doing things, though at a slow pace.
“We have a hospital to go to when we fall sick and we get free medicine. So I think we must appreciate that. I don’t care how the medicine comes or where it comes from. All I care about is that we get the medical care we need,” he said.
The Tamils in the North are guided by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the TNA warned the government to immediately address some of the key issues faced by the Tamils in the North, failing which they will back a change of government.
TNA and opposition leader R. Sampanthan said that while the government has done a lot, more remains to be done. “Hundreds of Tamils are still suffering. The government must understand this,” he said.
Sampanthan said that the TNA will have high level talks with the government and push for solutions for the Tamils issues. He also said that a new Constitution must be created through which a political solution is given to the Tamils.
The opposition leader said that at consecutive elections the Tamils have been calling for a political solution. He said that hundreds of Tamils are still without jobs and this must be looked into.
Sampanthan was speaking at a public event held in Vavuniya to coincide with the handing over of houses to the displaced families in the North.
The 150 homes were built by the Gnanam Foundation.
Meanwhile, last week the TNA had talks with the military on releasing private land held by the military. The meeting was headed by TNA leader R. Sampanthan.
TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran said that the Defence Secretary, Army Chief and officials from the Navy and Air Force attended the meeting.
Sumanthiran said the TNA was informed at the meeting that the Army will follow any order on the land matter issued by the President or Defence Secretary.
The TNA was also informed that the Army is prepared to withdraw from any land not required for security reasons.
Also last week, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), reiterated its demand for the release of lands belonging to various individuals, at different places in the Districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Killinochchi, Vanni, and at various places in the Eastern Province as well.
Land is too precious
In a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena, TULF Secretary General V. Anandasangraee said the TULF is of the opinion, that continuing to hold these lands cannot be justified under any circumstances.
“For any human being, living in any part of the world, land is too precious for anyone to give up. It is such a sensitive issue. I wish to warn the government Your Excellency, that the only way to solve this problem is to promptly and unconditionally quit all such lands. I wish to quote from a Press Release of the TULF dated July 2, 2010, signed by me as the Secretary General of the TULF. The first paragraph itself says “I am frankly of the opinion that the opening of an Army Camp at Mullaitivu as a fore-runner and the decision of the Government to build permanent houses for the Army are ill-timed, counterproductive and will very soon prove disastrous. I am not that foolish as to stir up a hornet’s nest by protesting against these moves. Whatever I do and say are always with patriotic feelings. My sincere advice is that the Government should forthwith stop opening any more new camps in Vanni, close down the one already opened and also abandon the idea of constructing permanent houses in the North and the East for the use of the Army. The government should understand and appreciate my thinking and give credibility to my suggestions,” he said.
Anandasangaree said the fears expressed by him at that time now stands proved. He told Sirisena his predecessor did not take his advice but he hopes that he will.
“The movement to demand the release of lands is now fast gaining ground. Added to this, even the Catholic clergy is getting worried over the new developments. Hence the Government should not loose time to concede the demands of the people. In a peaceful situation, so much of Army Camps are not at all necessary and all Camps other than those that were in existence before the war, should be closed down immediately, without causing humiliation to the people who think that they are fighting a holy war,” he said.
Anandasangaree said that any further delay may prove detrimental and may even end up with the demand, that the Tamil MPs of these districts should quit Parliament.
Meeting media heads last week the President said that the resettlement in the North will be completed soon. He said 60 percent of the resettlement has been completed and the rest will be completed soon.