By C.V. Wigneswaran –
I find this Government is proposing to give fillip to inland production partly by its Taxation scheme. We welcome such initiative. My Party, the Thamizh Makkal Thesiya Kootani, has enthroned self government politically, self sufficiency economically and self reliance individually and socially as its Party goals. To work towards self sufficiency in our production and economic sectors is the need of the hour. With so much of foreign debt to be serviced we need to work towards self sufficiency. We need to conserve our foreign exchange. There are many theories in this regard.
A World Bank expert met me once when I was Chief Minister. He had noted that our farmers hardly made ends meet by paddy cultivation. Therefore he proposed that we should not produce paddy at great cost since rice was available cheaply from places like Thailand. He was thinking globally! He suggested we should try other crop production. I told him apart from our people preferring red rice to white rice, however much the cost of production might be, we must continue to produce our basic stable food with modern production methods to be in readiness for any emergency. Suppose production from Thailand and other Countries gets delayed unduly due to war or other reasons, we would find it difficult to feed ourselves, I said. His answer was we could get rice from other Countries. I was not satisfied since war times can be tricky. Recent Covid-19 Pandemic has taught us the need to become self-sufficient in our food requirements. We must produce more than merely to make ourselvesself-sufficient. We must export the excess. We must value add to our production. It is the Government’s duty to facilitateconsiderable production granting as many subsidies and relevant production auxiliaries and requirements and also advise towards value addition and help to export our products.
Our Party in the North has started popularizing Home Gardens. More and more of our people are now growing at least some of their daily requirement of vegetables in their Home Gardens. I for one before being forced into Politics, in my retirement used to grow a lot of vegetables in my roof garden in our Colombo House.
A journey towards self-sufficiency would help our war affected people immensely. To a Country faced with innumerable economic set-backs, ensuring such journey towards self-sufficiency would be the ideal way forward.
Giving fillip to inland production would also generate employment to our people. Unemployment in our War affected areas have exceeded 10% while the National average proportion of unemployment is less than 6%. We need to take immediate steps to reduce unemployment in the war affected areas. Increasing production after due planning would ensure decrease in unemployment and give impetus to development. We must ensure at least one person in every family has employment. This would in turn reduce the number of families living under the poverty line.
Speaking of the North and East, Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. Around 40% of our people are farmers. But some of our people are unable to do farming in their own traditional areas in recent times. You would remember very recently a Venerable Bhikku member of the Eastern Archaeological Task Force prevented the farmers from entering nearly 1000 acres coming under the Trinco – Kuchchaveli Pradeshiya Sabha Division in Thiriyayi.
Stating that certain paddy lands were Archaeological sites the farmers have been prevented from continuing their cultivation activities during this season.
Those among us who argue that the Provinces must not be given land powers should take notice of this. A Bhikku from nowhere comes and prevents our people participating in their traditional agricultural pursuits!
Are we interested in rallying all communities and take the Country forward to-wards economic regeneration or are we interested in subjugating one community under the pretext of Archaeological sites at the expense of economic production and regeneration? We have not even identified the so called Archeological sites as towhether they belong to the time when those areas were occupied by Tamil Buddhists or Sinhala Buddhists. If those so called sites were Buddhist remains from the time of Demala Baudhayos the decision to preserve those areas must come from the Tamils of those areas not from a Pan SinhalaTask Force. Let us first have a Commission consisting of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Foreign Historians well versed in South Asian History to sit and identify the period when Sinhalese language was born. Buddhism and Sinhalese are not co extensive.
The Trinco Kuchchaveli people who have been prevented from cultivating their lands must be allowed to continue with their agricultural activities. Hon’ Prime Minister must take the necessary steps in this regard.
I find no reference to the immediate economic development of the war affected areas. It is high time we decided to give priority treatment to the war affected areas to develop them quickly if need be with Aid from Countries like Japan who came forward earlier to help us. This would help the Central Government as well as the war affected areas by attracting urgent foreign exchange into the Country.
There are two types of challenges we face in the North and East in promoting economic recovery. One relates to administration the other being practical. Administratively there has so far been a top – down attitude in deciding what is good for the North and East. All economic planning was done in Colombo and thrust upon us at the periphery. Such planning never took into account our identity, our terrain, our climatic conditions, our culture and our way of life. Our public officers and local experts were not consulted when planning was done in Colombo. We lacked the power and authority to plan and execute what was best for us. I say so because I found this to be so when I was Chief Minister of the Northern Province.
The other challenge our People face are practical difficulties. Even Electricity meter readers are now brought from outside the Province. This way our locals are continuing to be unemployed, Another example is the presence of the Military who occupy valuable land. They are a hindrance to our progress. I referred to the intrusion of the Buddhist Priest from the Archaeological Task Force a little while ago. In Sinhala there is a beautiful phrase as to what they do – Angiligahanawa! Intrusion by outsiders prevent our progress.
So let me conclude by congratulating the Government for promoting self-sufficiency and self-reliance in the field of economic development while at the same time pointing the need to allow our people in the North and East to mind their own business unhampered by outside influences while still continuing to be part of the same polity. I thank you Mr.Speaker.
*Speech made in the Parliament Debate on Vote on Account Sessions of 9th September 2020