Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe travelled to Jaffna last week and when the Sri Lanka Air Force VIP helicopter touched down at the Jaffna Municipal Council grounds, he was received by one of the leading business magnates in Jaffna T. Thuvarakeswaran who is the brother of the late UNP Parliamentarian T. Maheswaran and the brother in law of State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe descended from the SLAF chopper amidst heavy showers and tight security, to once the location of the Jaffna Municipal Council, where stood a building very much similar to the Jaffna Public Library building in architecture. However, the LTTE demolished the majestic Jaffna Municipal Council building, which even housed a cinema, by detonating dynamites, when there were moves by the Army to take over the building, in the early eighties. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s Jaffna itinerary focused on having meetings with Government officials in Jaffna and Kilinochchi, to assess the progress of the post-war development activities.
The Prime Minister’s confidant Minister D M Swaminathan was also in the Mullaitivu District, where he even witnessed a miraculous Wattrapalai Kannaki Amman temple ceremony of lighting the temple lamp with sea water. It was the week before, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister Swaminathan visited the Northern Province, that commemorative events were held on 18 May, at Mullivaikkal in the Mullaitivu District, in remembrance of those who perished during the final phase of the separatist war.
Before embarking on his official assignments in the North, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe first went to an Ice Cream parlour in Nallur, which is located in the vicinity of the tomb of the LTTE’s political wing stalwart Thileepan, who had fast unto death against the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987.
In view of the extremely warm weather conditions in Jaffna, ice cream parlours are very popular with the people of Jaffna and the particular one visited by the Prime Minister is not only frequented by the people of Jaffna, but it is also very well-known to local tourists who travel from the South to Jaffna, after the end of the turbulent days.
On seeing the VVIP visitor at the Nallur Ice Cream parlour, the people around the place showed an eagerness to take photos with the Prime Minister and the polite leader obliged all those who wanted a photo opportunity.
The Prime Minister commenced his official tour of the North by travelling to the Kilinochchi District Secretariat where he discussed the problems that remained unresolved. Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian S Sritharan, who is a man from Kilinochchi, brought to the notice of the Prime Minister, that the lands in the possession of Security Forces in Vanni as well as in the Northern Province at large, remains the major problem faced by the Internally Displaced Persons who are looking forward to be resettled in their original places.
Parliamentarian Sritharan who is the brother-in-law of two top LTTE commanders, Theepan and his brother who were killed during the final phase of the separatist war, also complained to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe about how he was threatened by a forest official at gun point when he went to talk with him over a land issue in his constituency.
The meetings convened by the Prime Minister in Kilinochchi and Jaffna were attended by representatives of all political parties including Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarians and the Provincial Councillors in the North.
However, it was noteworthy that Northern Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran kept away from the Prime Minister’s meetings in the North.. The Chief Minister, who is also an Old Boy of Ranil Wickremesinge’s Alma Mater Colombo Royal College, had completely boycotted the Jaffna Meeting convened by the Prime Minister where several important issues were discussed.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran, who didn’t want to face the Prime Minister, had sent a letter, in his capacity as Northern Chief Minister, detailing what he expected the Government to do for the people in the North.
Wigneswaran’s letter to the Prime Minister had emphasized, primarily, the repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and release of all lands in the possession of the Security Forces in the North.
As predictions have already surfaced, that Chief Minister Wigneswaran is most likely to take a new political stance, deviating from the Tamil National Alliance, at the Provincial Council elections next year, the letter to the Prime Minister could be even seen as consisting of features of his election manifesto to be released at the Provincial Council polls next year.
However, there were even similarities between the letter submitted to the Prime Minister by Wigneswaran and the views expressed by TNA’s Leader and Leader of the Opposition R Sampanthan, during his meeting with the US Congressional delegation led by Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the Armed Forces Services Committee, in Colombo, two days ago.
Therefore, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who had embarked on his Jaffna tour by tasting Ice cream in the city would have realized that it was a `cold war’ between his Government and Chief Minister Wigneswaran, who has emerged as a formidable political figure in the North.