19 July, 2019

Blog

A Northern Path To Reconciliation In Sri Lanka

By Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

Northern People Humble the People’s Dynasty

I salute the people of the Northern Province for showing the door to the self-proclaimed “People’s Dynasty”; the only province in the country to do so, which is a glimmer of hope for re-establishment of democracy in the country. Although I am not a fan of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), I wholeheartedly welcome its landslide win in the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections as a symbolic defeat of corruption, crime, cronyism, militarism, and nepotism of the Rajapaksa regime.

Avoid Triumphalism

However, it is only the beginning of a long road ahead. The TNA should not ask for the sun and the moon and squander this golden opportunity as did LTTE at every single opportunity that was offered to it during the twenty-five years from 1985 (Thimbu talks) to 2009 (end of civil war). TNA should not also follow President Rajapaksa and sweep the past, particularly of the Tamil community in pursuit of ‘liberation’, under the carpet and indulge in triumphalism as a result of the unprecedented mandate it has received from the northern people. The mandate received by the TNA in 2013 was higher than its predecessor TULF received in 1977 at the parliamentary elections. (Read The Myth of “no more minorities” by this author)

True political leadership is to be magnanimous in victory, which is what the President of Sri Lanka sorely lacked in the aftermath of the total defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 but this author presently expects from the first-ever Chief Minister of the Northern Province. It is such magnanimity in historic victory that will elevate the moral ground of the Tamil minority community vis-à-vis its political aspirations.

Northern Truth and Reconciliation Commission

With the right to self-rule come responsibilities as well. Firstly, the NPC should forge reconciliation with the minority communities of the Northern Province, viz. Muslim and Sinhala communities, for the injustices meted-out to them during the course of the so-called ‘liberation struggle’. If the Tamil minority community is to demand parity of status at the national level, the Tamil majority community in the North should afford parity of status to the minority communities of the North and thereby lead by example. If the Tamil minority community is to demand reparations for the losses incurred during ethnic riots and civil war from the national government, the Tamil majority community in the NP should pay reparations to losses incurred by the minority communities (especially the Muslim community) in the North.

Constitution of a Northern Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be a priority for the newly elected NPC in order to investigate, for example, the massacre of civilians in Anuradhapura in 1985 and the massacre of civilians living in the border areas throughout the civil war, expulsion of the Muslim community en-masse from the NP in 1991 and confiscation of their movable and immovable assets and properties, and the killing of Tamil intellectuals beginning from the killing of St. John’s College Principal Mr. Anandarajah in 1985, Dr. Rajani Thiranagama (nee Rajasingam) of the University of Jaffna in 1989, Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam in 1999, Mr. Ketheshwaran Loganathan in 2006, et al. The foregoing are few examples that could be expanded.

If the Tamil community is to demand national or international investigations into the unnecessary loss of civilian lives during the last stages of the civil war, it is imperative for the Tamil community to investigate unnecessary killing of civilians from the regional minority communities and intellectuals from its own community during the time of the civil war by its newly elected NPC.

Equal Opportunities Legislation

An Equal Opportunities Act should be enacted in the Northern Province in order to inculcate merit-based governance of public administration, public and private decision making, and corporate governance in the province. The proposed Equal Opportunities Act should outlaw discrimination in terms of caste, disability, ethnicity, gender, regional origin, and religion.

This exemplary legislation should be a role model worthy of emulation for other provincial governments and the national government in the country.

Language Parity

The Tamil community has been demanding parity of status as regards the use of Tamil language in any part of the country which is legitimate. Now there is an opportunity for the NP to offer parity of status to its own minority community, viz. the Sinhala community, as regards the use of Sinhala language in the North. The NPC has to deliver (at the regional level) what it demands (at the national level) in order to take moral upper hand vis-à-vis the national socialist regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

For example, the street name boards within the TNA-administered Point Pedro Urban Council area are in all three languages (English, Sinhala, and Tamil), which is welcome. However, the street name boards within the TNA-administered Valvettithurai Urban Council area are only in English and Tamil languages. Why is this difference in treatment of the regional minority language? TNA should pursue common policy in such matters so that all TNA-administered local authorities follow the same common policy.

Illicit Appropriation of Private Property

The TNA has been demanding the vacation of private houses, properties, and lands forcibly occupied by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna (since 1996 when the SLA wrested control of the peninsula from the LTTE) and mainland Vanni districts of the Northern Province (NP). Hypocritically, constituent political parties of the TNA (e.g. PLOTE and TELO) have been forcibly occupying private houses and lands in the districts of Mannar and Vavuniya for a long time (since the late-1980s) and continue to do so even to this day. The TNA should practice what it preaches; therefore as a moral example to the SLA all private houses and lands occupied by constituent political parties of the TNA should be vacated and handed back to the lawful owners (even if they live abroad now) with immediate effect.

Development and Investment Priorities

Not only the Rajapaksa government got its priorities wrong as regards development of the North (especially the Vanni), the Tamil community also has got its priorities wrong in terms of development. Throughout the North, including in the impoverished Vanni mainland, places of religious worship (especially Hindu temples) are lavishly rehabilitated, reconstructed, and/or redecorated at an exorbitant cost financially sponsored mainly by the Tamil Diaspora, whilst people of the Vanni are living in squalor in their huts made out of clay or tins without basic amenities such as toilets, clean and safe water, and electricity supply.

I can understand and appreciate the divine solace sought by brutalised population in places of religious worship. Nevertheless, when fundamental human needs are unheeded and unmet, what is the moral and ethical imperative for extravagant expenditure on places of worship? What the people in the North, especially in the Vanni, urgently need are factories and places of production of goods and services that create employment opportunities for unemployed youths and wider masses. According to our estimation, 27.4% of the eligible working age population (15-59 years old) in the North is unemployed either voluntarily or involuntarily, which is the highest unemployment rate in the country (total number of unemployed persons in the province 123,209 – according to the Annual Labour Force Survey 2012 – divided by total number of eligible working-age persons in the province 450,000 – according to Census 2012 – and multiplied by one hundred).

Furthermore, I would strongly argue the case for unlocking huge financial resources and physical assets amassed by various faith-based institutions in the North for the purpose of development finance in the NP. The Chief Minister being a devout Hindu and having rapport with faith-based institutions should persuade wealthy Hindu temples to contribute lavishly for the development thrust of the NPC.

Caste Census

Historically, discrimination, dispossession, and exclusion of large number of northern people based on caste division of society have been debilitating the Tamil community. Therefore, first-ever census of caste in the NP needs to be undertaken in order to introduce affirmative policies to lift significant proportion of the Tamil population out of social marginalisation. If the Tamil community vies for political parity of status vis-à-vis other ethnic communities in the country, it should afford the same to its own social and economic minorities in the North.

The caste division of Tamil society cannot be swept under the carpet like the Rajapaksa regime is trying to do to the ethnic minorities in the country.

Empowerment of Women

Women are the majority gender in the Northern Province. The Jaffna district has the highest share of females in its population among the twenty-five districts in the country. Therefore, northern women should be given due share of the economic, political, and social space in the province. Poverty and unemployment rates among women are many times greater than that of men. Besides, NP has the largest number of female-headed households and former female combatants who are ostracised for a number of reasons.

Certain provisions of the traditional customary law governing the NP, viz. Thesawalamai law, are inimical to women’s equality in society. A need to reform the Thesawalamai law is long overdue. No person is better equipped to reform the traditional customary law than the newly elected Chief Minister, who is a former judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

Diaspora Bond

The NPC should endeavour to attract human and financial capital from over half-million first and second generations Tamil Diaspora spanned across the world, particularly in Europe and North America.

The ‘Diaspora Bonds’ are sovereign bonds issued by governments to its Diaspora in order to tap their assets in host countries. Diaspora Bonds is a long standing revenue raising mechanism for sovereign governments in many countries such as India, Israel, Philippines, and many Latin American countries that have huge Diaspora populations in affluent countries. The newly formed State of Israel floated its first Diaspora Bond in 1951, perhaps the first of its kind.

Although the Sri Lanka Development Bond (SLDB) floated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka during the past six years are primarily (though not exclusively) targeted at the Sri Lankan Diaspora it has not exploited the potential to any significant extent for a variety of reasons. One of the limitations of the SLDB is that it is one of many revenue raising mechanisms for the government that is not specifically tied to a project or a region within Sri Lanka.

The NPC, with the concurrence of the External Resources Department (ERD) of the Ministry of Finance, should float innovative Diaspora Bonds in order to mobilise investment resources for specific projects or development of specific geographical area with which particular Diaspora group/s have emotional bond. For example, development of an airport, harbour, highway, or manufacturing industry could be financed through such Diaspora Bonds targeted at particular Diaspora populations who would potentially have an emotional tie to a particular project or a geographical area.

The Chief Minster could potentially set-up a special fund to attract direct contributions, either by way of donations or loans, by the Tamil Diaspora for the development of the Northern Province equally and efficiently. Rigorous monitoring mechanism should be established to prevent leakages and ensure efficient utilization of such funds.

Forward Looking

It is time to look forward by learning from the past and envisioning for the future. The key to the future is introspection and self-criticism, which is the imperative for this contribution. The Northern Provincial Government should show the genuine path of reconciliation, and of course development, to our national government, which is the fervent hope and wish of this author.

*Muttukrishna Sarvananthan (Ph.D. Wales, M.Sc. Bristol, M.Sc. Salford, and B.A. (Hons) Delhi) hails from Point Pedro, Development Economist by profession, and the Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development (PPID), Point Pedro, Northern Province. http://pointpedro.org He can be contacted at sarvi@pointpedro.org

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    I don’t understand how he got a doctorate and became as a Principal Researcher of a development institute. He clearly identifies himself as a supporter of Rajapakse regime. He elevates murderous dictator Rajapakse regime as “the national socialist regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa”.

    • 0
      0

      He only write articles and never respond to the comments made.

      • 0
        0

        BRAVO! Dr. Sarvananthan! Spoken like a True and Honest Tamil who is not interested in burying Tamil society’s DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS – of which there are many.
        One of the reasons for the LTTE to become the monster it became without internal correction from the Tamil society, is the CASTE divide.
        The LTTE fought and exploited 2 wars, one within the Tamil society and the other with the Sinhala racist state to build up Prabakarans cult and empire. There is indeed need for AFFIRMATIVE ACTION with regard to margnialized castes and women, as well as, a truth and reconciliation commission for northern Muslims and Sinhalas. THA should lead by example. HAT OFF TO Dr. MUttukrishana!

        • 0
          0

          Thambimuttu,
          You are correct.There are still some tamils who ‘beleive’ that a “vellala gene” is in one of their chromosomes.These invented their ‘vellala status’ themselves.If non-vellalas try to break out of the artificial social stigma,this is severely frowned upon.
          As a shoolboy I was told by a classmate that if a “low” caste man requested a drink of water,it was served in a coconut shell,which was later burned!
          I hope the chief minister & his council members are not averse to eating at the same table with, and being served by the same spoon,
          used by a “non-vellala”.

          • 0
            0

            “You are correct.There are still some tamils who ‘beleive’ that a “vellala gene” is in one of their chromosomes”

            WOW… Other than Premadasa, can you name non-Govigama leaders of Sri Lanka? Premadasa was let run, because Lalith and Gamini didn’t think they had a chance to win.

      • 0
        0

        Good stuff Sarvi! Keep it coming!
        Really raising the bar on the level of debate in northern society!

      • 0
        0

        And you seem to be capable of writing only short comments. Why don’t you write a full article arguing your point if you have any? Surely you have been to school and learnt how to write essays! Have you? If you have, you will understand that he is making some very good points (e.g. “TNA should not ask for the sun and the moon like the LTTE did” — respond to that point if you can!).

    • 0
      0

      It is his own Institute, mate.

    • 0
      0

      Ajith,

      No wonder you are upset. Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan is no slave to nationalism. Like you are.

      He is intelligent, moderate and solution oriented.

      He respects all Sri Lankans. Critical when required.

      His article is excellent.

      Cheers!

      • 0
        0

        Ben,

        It is not about respecting all Sri Lankan. It is about respecting human values and principles irrespective of colour, gender, caste, religion, race, and disability. Muslims, Sinhalese, Malays, Indians or anyone within the NPC administration should be treated equally. There is no question about that. TNA and CM clearly stated in their manifesto and they don’t need advise from a man who was a partner of a para military group that was responsible for violation of human rights. He should have advised Minister Douglas Devananda when he was running brothels and forcing all the government offices to break the law.

        I am upset about the motive of this writer and the background in which he write this article. He is trying to accuse TNA of not giving equal rights to minorities even before they start to function. For example he wants a Northern Truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the murders of muslims and Sinhalese and few individuals during the course of liberation struggle by LTTE, but nothing about the crimes committed by his masters Sinhala military and EPDP. In his article, Why he omitted EPDP? We all know how many were killed by EPDP.

        In fact he acts as an agent of Rajapakse regime and what he wants is to TNA to probe allegations of LTTE human rights but not the human right violations of EPDP and SLA military. This is where his motive is not about reconciliation and equality. His motive is to justify the crimes of a government and its paramilitary ally.

  • 0
    0

    Absolute crap from boot licker

  • 0
    0

    Keep up the sane and balanced work!
    Way to go Sarvi!
    Cool runnings.. mate!

    Show the Sinhala racist State – the way to go –
    “SET A BETTER EXAMPLE” (Bob Marley)

    NPC – CM should take you on as Adviser..

    • 0
      0

      Oh is that why he is pumping our such articles. By the way how many people are part of this think tank. 1?

  • 0
    0

    Tell that to Tamil Nadu people.

    This is nonsense as far as SL is concerned. Another Tamil Diearsepora.

  • 0
    0

    ‘Lead by example’ well done doctor! I hope your dreams of reconciliation and peace come to pass.

  • 0
    0

    Sarvananthan would be taken mote seriously if he hadn’t made the egregious error, revealing the possibility that he was being paid by the GoSL, to support the GoSL claim that there were only 70,000 people in the Vanni during the final stages of the war. There has been no apologies or any self-criticism from him. It is rich for him to pontificate to the TNA and Tamils in general about self-criticism.

    • 0
      0

      ” is rich for him to pontificate to the TNA and Tamils in general about self-criticism.”

      OK, you don’t like Sarvananthan saying TNA and Tamils should entertain some self-criticism. Who has the right to say it? Do YOU qualify? Would you accept a call for self-criticism from Ratnajeevan Hoole? Would you accept a call from Kumaran Pathmanathan that the Tamils need to be self-critical? How about Karuna — he is living a life of self-criticism, it looks like! Who, in your opinion, is the perfect Tamil who can make a call for self-criticism?

      • 0
        0

        Self-criticism is for everyone–Tamils, TNA, Sinhalese, GoSL and its one-time supporters, LTTE and its supporters, Sinhalese extremists, and so on.

      • 0
        0

        Chukkle

        Saravanan has a lot to answer. He Should came out with his confession first as to how help to propagate Myths leading to the Killing fields at Mullaitivu and thereafter.

        Let alone The TNA and its 80% voters will know what to do. Please get Douglass to hand over Sridar Theatre back for a start also the other Civilian properties spread over the Northern Province.

        levi

        • 0
          0

          Levi,

          I don’t understand… are you saying the TNA also does not know what happened in the killing fields? Your construct “Let alone the TNA and 80%” is not clear to me. Sorry English is not my first language. Explain please.

          Also what has Sarvananthan got to do with Sridhar theater? I don’t understand.

  • 0
    0

    When Bandaranayaka publicised the education\schools in Sri Lanaka, it was only rich people have right to learn both communities. Sinhala leaders introduced free education system irrespectively the races. As a consequence, most of poor people educated well. specially lower cast people of Jaffna got the most benefits of the opportunity. When Mrs.bandaranayaka went to lay down foundation stone to the University in Jaffna, even Ananda sangaree was on a protest campaign. When distrct basis was introduced, Tamils told the world that they were discriminated. But as a result of distrct basis, not only Jaffna rich Tamils, but poor Tamil students of Kilinochchi and Wanni got more opportunities to enter univesities…When Sinhala students were chased out from the Jaffna university, no retalative actions form other universities in other parts of Sri Lanka…(Prabakaran might have mis read it as a timidness of Sinhalese) At least now, Tamils should not lie to the world and be ready to live with Sinhalese if they wish…Aprreciate your attempt Dr….Or they have choice of nandikadal again..

  • 0
    0

    “I salute the people of the Northern Province for showing the door to the self-proclaimed “People’s Dynasty”; the only province in the country to do so, which is a glimmer of hope for re-establishment of democracy in the country.”

    Another Idiot forgetting how TNA exploited Tribalism and LTTE to win the election.

    This is the Tamilness. they are not in reality, they are in an imaginative universe and they lose every time.

  • 0
    0

    Well written.

  • 0
    0

    i saw a news item from a tamil crawler who says that chingala race should be allowed to live in north. can he guarantee that chingala monsters will behave like civilised human beings. what’s the point in inviting criminals to live as your neighbours. in my opinion you are asking for trouble. however,tamil people from the hill country and the east should be given preference over chingala savages if they choose to live in the north.

    • 0
      0

      dear Rama

      You may call them Sinhalya Modaya kavun Kanda yodaya. But you calling other names are unacceptable.

      Please remember vast number of Tamil speaking community in the North were one time Sinhala Speakers/ Sinhales. There are equally or more numbers amongst Sinhala speaking South who were Tamils. As their names suggest on both sides of the Divide.

      There was a time when most of the Tamil speaking nationals including in south India were Buddhists.

      Do you know That Perumpuli (Biggest Tiger) is/was the Name of a leading chairman in the the South. So are Rasaputhram, Weerappan/Weerapana, Marappan/Marapana from South. Whilst in the North there are are Chadrasekara, Nagachandra, Ramachandra, Nallaperuma, Visakapermal in the North.

      So learn to reconcile to the Fact is that this country is genetically consists of One Race sharing many common genes speaking Two Languages and several religions to boot.

      I Doubt whether you are a Tamil at all. If you are you want to continue with the rule of Delft, likking the bones wagging the tails and be “His Masters Voice”.

      levi

      • 0
        0

        hi livi, history is history. looking at history is not going to help anyone. it doesn’t matter if we were one people at some point of time. what matters is we are altogether different people now. we are a world apart and we simply cannot get along. this is the reality. what’s unacceptable is a matter of opinion. the words i choose to describe chingala race , in my opinion fit them perfectly. there is nothing more i can say on this matter to satisfy you. i am sorry if i have disappointed you.

  • 0
    0

    Some commentators have unfairly criticised the author accusing of being a Rajapakse shill, which he clearly is not – going by his
    comments here. On the contrary, there are many thoughts he has
    expressed here worthy of consideration viz:- Diaspora
    Bonds. One of the priorities of the new CM/NPC and the diaspora should be a fully-integrated world class University to turn out Doctors, Engineers and other Professionals – badly lacking in the country plagued by low standards. Such an institution will have an advantage over its counter-parts in the South that, unfortunately, will be gripped by confusion and disorder for sometime to come in the nature of matters there. To serve the cause of unity, Students from the South should be found reserved places in such a University.

    Small and Medium sized industries can be another area that can help overcome the employment issue plus help income levels in the Province.
    Incidentally, there was much said a few years ago about opening up of
    Garment-export industries in the North. Very little is known of how they are doing.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
      0

      Senguttuwan,

      Well he has become a bit more critical of the Rajapaksa regime of late, but before the end of the war, he wrote in support of the GoSL and Sarath Fonseka, and to buttress his case he resorted to the same sophistries and lies that the GoSL used, including the one about 70000 civilians in the Vanni. After the war, he wrote publicly as a staunch supporter of Fonseka for president; the TNA also supported Fonseka tactically, but was clear they were not absolving him of war crimes charges. But this author was unequivocal in his support of Fonseka. When he was at the George Washington Univ here, his friends couldn’t understand why he was resorting to such lies, and they suspected he was probably being paid by the GoSL at that time.

      Rajasingham Narendran was also supportive of the Rajapaksa regime at that time, but has become more enlightened of late. Sarvananthan is still not there.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.