By C. V. Wigneswaran –
Madame Chairperson, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, distinguished film world personalities, popular artistes and my dear brothers and sisters,
I am told Cinema festivals of this nature are normally opened by the Mayor of the city in which the festival takes place. Our local authorities unfortunately have been dissolved. Hence they have picked on me. Even though I am not glamorous enough to take the place of a Mayor, I hope I could make up for my cosmetic deficiency with my passion for the Visual Fine Arts.
We in the North have suffered in the field of cinematic production and exhibition due to the three decades of war. We are a war affected community. Since our youngsters had been involved more in the production of documentaries except for what the various Militant movements produced for their propaganda and dissemination, there had been a complete breakdown in the production of independent – Cinema in the Peninsula.
So this festival is an articulation of a much desired need on our part.
Let me first of all welcome all of you as the Chief Minister of the Northern Province. It is indeed a pleasure to be with all of you today at this meeting.
I find our Chairperson is passionately interested in propagating the fine art of cinematic representation to reach the people and to create a space for communities across borders to interact with each other. A noble object indeed!
The cinematic art brings to the notice of our people that human emotions transcend community divisions and are common to all mankind. With the help of subtitles from a common language almost any film could be appreciated due to the histrionic abilities of the artistes acting in such films.
I am reminded of a story I heard as a youngster. A famous Polish actress was interviewed on the T.V. She was asked by the English speaking interviewer to act a part in her Polish language. She did so speaking in her mother tongue. The audience were in tears without understanding her language. The interviewer asked at the end as to what her dialogue was about. She said “Nothing! I just acted and counted from number one onwards saying in my language one two three four and so on!” But her acting brought her audience to tears with nothing of her language being understood by them!
The cinematic art could be used to bring communities together or to divide and destroy communities. Let us make up our minds to mend fences that have kept our communities apart from each other. While doing so let us be aware of the power of the cinematic art to subtlely condition the minds of our people in such a way as to deviate them from their desired goals.
The Tamil community has been discriminated against continuously since Independence. I was fortunate enough to have lived during my early childhood in many parts of this Country as a citizen of the Great British Empire which ruled us then before independence. My early education was in Kurunegala and Anuradhapura before I joined Royal Primary in Colombo. My father was also stationed in Kandy and Tangalle as a Government Officer. As an original Court Judge later I had functioned in different parts of this Country. The significant thing I have noticed is that the camaraderie, the good will and wellbeing, the brotherly and humane relationship that existed prior to independence in this country is lacking now. Tamil speaking people who used to live and own lands and do businesses in many parts of the South had been driven out from their residences by pogroms and riots. Since Independence they have been relegated more or less within discernible areas by discriminatory laws and diabolical violence. As far as the North and East are concerned the State infiltration into their traditional areas of residence is still continuing. In other words a community that occupied almost every nook and corner of this country during my childhood peacefully doing their work as government employees or as traders or as cultivators of lands have been driven out from the rest of the Country and are now being driven out from their traditional homelands too. Hundreds of thousands of people who were citizens of this beautiful country have become citizens of alien countries simply because they or their predecessors were violently driven away. The cinematic art must be able to enlighten our youth and others of the inhuman activities that have taken this country on a wrong path. The visual media is capable of explaining to our youth the harm that had befallen the minorities in this Country due to the wrong policies followed by certain politicians due to their selfish reasons.
The total understanding of our past would help us to mend our future. Truth must precede reconciliation. Let us be courageous enough to accept our past, accept our mistakes and mend fences to take us on an enlightened humane path in the future.
This is a time for contemplation and consideration, co-operation and co-ordination. It is in the best order of things that the visual media is being promoted and propagated among us all.
So long as there are no diabolical ulterior motives in the promotion of our visual media, our youth must make use of this opportunity to enhance their abilities and prospects in the Cinematic world.
I am sure only noble and humane considerations drive us in this useful journey. Let me thank our Chairperson and the organizers for making the festival a reality. May our people benefit by participating in this festival gaining insight into other cultures and heritages. May our youth gain in understanding the subtle intricacies in the field of the Cinematic Art.
I thank the organizers for inviting me. Thank you all.
*Jaffna International Cinema Festival – Celebrating Independent Cinema in the Peninsula – Inaugural Ceremony at the Kailasapathy Auditorium, University of Jaffna on 15th September 2015 at 5.45 pm – Northern Province Chief Minister Justice C.V.Wigneswaran’s Speech