Colombo Telegraph

Central Government’s Hela Bojun & Tourism In Northern Province

By C.V. Wigneswaran

C.V. Wigneswaran

Let me start on a political note. We in the Northern Province wish to leave the stamp of our individuality on the Tourist Industry. We of the North not to forget the East, have something unique to contribute to the culture and wellbeing of the Sri Lankan state. We are different from the rest of the Country. We have a separate language, separate religions, culture, ethos, climate, topography, terrain and even geological differences. We like to maintain our individuality. We also want others to respect and recognize our individuality.

Recently the Government wanted to name a Restaurant built by our Provincial Council which was financed by the Central Government as Hela Bojun. I questioned the propriety of such an action. Hela is the Pali form of the Tamil word Eelam. I said I have no objection to the Restaurant being named Eela Unavakam in Tamil. Otherwise joining with the other Restaurants already named in the North as Ammachchi Restaurant this new establishment too could be called Ammachchi Restaurant. The Government reluctantly allowed the opening without a name being ascribed. This is a lesson for us.

Chief Guest’s Address – Grand Launching of Northern Province Tourism Association on 28/03/2018 at 5.30 pm at the Grand Green Palace Hall, Jaffna:

Guru Brahma…………..

Mr. Chairman, Acting Country Director WUSC, The Regional Team Leader for Northern Province, WUSC, The Secretary, NPTA, other Stakeholders of NPTA, Founder President of NPTA, Mr.T. Sunderesan, Professor T. Velnampy, District Secretaries of Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, those representing the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) in the Northern Region, Dr.S. Sivesan, Senior Lecturer, and brothers and sisters.

Let me first congratulate the Northern Province Tourism Association for deciding upon this launch. I find, it is your expectation that this launching will be an easy access to develop new business trends in Tourism related activities and ensure the strengthening of existing relationships in a mutually beneficial manner. There could be possible collaboration with our Northern Provincial Council with interventions from World University Service of Canada. We too expect the launching of your publication would benefit the future growth of our Northern Tourist Industry.

Let me start on a political note. We in the Northern Province wish to leave the stamp of our individuality on the Tourist Industry. We of the North not to forget the East, have something unique to contribute to the culture and wellbeing of the Sri Lankan state. We are different from the rest of the Country. We have a separate language, separate religions, culture, ethos, climate, topography, terrain and even geological differences. We like to maintain our individuality. We also want others to respect and recognize our individuality.

Recently the Government wanted to name a Restaurant built by our Provincial Council which was financed by the Central Government as Hela Bojun. I questioned the propriety of such an action. Hela is the Pali form of the Tamil word Eelam. I said I have no objection to the Restaurant being named Eela Unavakam in Tamil. Otherwise joining with the other Restaurants already named in the North as Ammachchi Restaurant this new establishment too could be called Ammachchi Restaurant. The Government reluctantly allowed the opening without a name being ascribed. This is a lesson for us.

There appears to exist a controlling and domineering attitude on the part of all Central Governments. We are a community of people having characteristics that mark us as a Nation of people. Our individuality must be respected just as we respect the Veddahs for what they are. Thus Tourism while developing on a common international trajectory should make leeway for the idiosyncrasies of our individuality. Having said that let me come to the NPTA.

Your desire to bring all Tourism stakeholders in the Northern Province under one umbrella and take collective action is laudable. Fissiparous tendencies do doubt are to be avoided. In pursuing the hospitality and tourism sector your desire to complement the work of the Northern Provincial Council is welcomed. We could certainly together find solutions to our common problems.

You are aware that we have entered into Twinning Programs with Local Authorities in Canada. In our MoU we have identified private sector development as an important element. Many Tamil Professionals from the Canadian hospitality industry have expressed interest to contribute towards the development of the industry in NP. In fact, a Canadian Hotel professional has acquired land in Jaffna and has commenced activities to develop an international 5 star hotel. You intend developing the capacity of NPTA members regarding hospitality and tourism with the support of Canadian Volunteers. That is what we have in mind in respect of our staff members dealing with tourism related matters too. We need to study the possibilities of making the Northern Province a Tourism Destination by bringing in private investment, encouraging new product investment and integrating technology with Tourism.

We need to also discuss with Sri Lankan Tourism Authorities to get help regarding capacity building and may be marketing and promotion of NPTA aims and objectives. 

We have certain Tourism preferences preferring to develop certain special sectoral Tourist’ attraction such as Indigenous Medical Tourism based on our own Siddha medicine as foundation, Heritage sites’ Tourism, Religious Tourism, Eco friendly Tourism, Fauna and Flora Tourism, Nature Tourism, Island Tourism along Public Private Partnership lines. It is ideal to setup Health Fitness and Spa Centres based our own Siddha Medicine. Herbariums can be grown giving employment to our youth. Much needs to be done to bring about a renaissance in our own form of Indigenous Medicine.  Organic farming needs to be encouraged.  We like to keep our environment unpolluted and still earn our Dollars by laying emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

I find you have incorporated almost all subjects pertaining to Tourism development in your course of studies. On the whole you intend producing more and more skilled personnel of all categories for the development of the Tourism industry in the Northern Province. A welcome need to be fulfilled.

It might not be out of place if I mention for your information, that in order to foster sustainable tourism development and growth my Ministry has now in place a Tourism statute and we are in the process of creating a policy framework, structure and process, with professional input, to create an enabling environment to serve and assist the key stakeholders.

We are intending to incorporate certain UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) and also World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO) related policy-guidelines and practices with private sector input locally and overseas to lay the foundation for a sustainable tourism development trajectory for the next decade in the Northern Province.

May be you have to form committees relating to the sectors of the Industry such as hotel development, marketing and promotions, In bound Tourism Development with emphasis on special interest Tourism, development of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) segment and create an engagement group to explore business potential via Twinning Agreements including diaspora groups.   

We need to have a long term plan and policy framework regarding Tourism Development and growth for Northern Province. I am glad to say our Ministry has taken steps in this regard and we will engage with your association in due course. But it would not be appropriate to make us an appendage of the Centre in the National Plan. We have to cater to the needs of our Province and our People. The steps taken for Tourism Development must be in consonance with our indigenous ethos, culture, environment and aspirations. I would also recommend that your Association should develop an effective administrative network, programs in cooperation with key stakeholders in all 5 districts of Northern Province including building upon studies carried out on tourism potential in the respective districts to foster and promote sustainable tourism. We like to keep our villages and the village way of life intact. We are conscious of our need to conserve water within our arid areas. Our sources for water are Tanks and wells not Rivers. Therefore Home Stays need to be promoted rather than large scale skyscrapers as in other areas in this Island. Preservation of our environment, heritage sites, fauna and flora, the simple and innocent village way of life is a priority for us. Tourists too prefer to come to view and savour our unique background rather than wallow in concrete constructions.

May I finally say that Tourism Development is in its initial stage in our Province. However, a rapid increase in the arrival of Tourists both local and International is observed after the end of the war situation and this has created a demand for Tourism related development activities. And also Tourism due to its very nature, inter-sectoral linkages, grassroots-host community affinity and multiplier effect etc , has been identified as one of the important sectors for the achievement of Sustainable Socio – Economic Development of the Province which enhances the livelihood, development and standard of living of our people in the post war context.

We are rich in high Tourism potentials such as long beautiful beaches, ancient and famous religious places, historical and archaeological sites, nature attractions, Islands, Forest and Wild life, Birds’ Sanctuaries etc and we are really committed in identifying and developing them into Tourist attractions. Northern Provincial Council is very much interested and has already taken steps to utilize the available resources towards Tourism development of the Province with the meagre finances received.

We like to keep in touch our relationship in that we could be of mutual benefit to each other. Thank you

*Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister – Northern Province

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