29 October, 2020

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Manifesto For NPC: A Restatement In Response To Comments

By S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

While thanking the contributors for their response, may I express my thoughts on them. To me the approach to administering the Province is three phased at the beginning.

Three Phases

Phase l – From the holders of sovereign power – the people – the Party intent on governing seeks and obtains a mandate through an admirable Manifesto. The Manifesto limited in length, sets out in clear perspective but only in broad outline the direction that the Provincial Council envisages taking. It is now done, whatever may be the infirmities. The mandate is awaited for 21st September.

Phase ll – The Party installed in power, will be led in governance by the Chief Minister (CM). Together with the permanent bureaucracy he will prepare a Policy Statement (PS) setting out the parameters of policy and action for the full five year term of the Council. The PS, prepared within three weeks, endorsed by the Board of Ministers and approved by the Council will enjoy the sanction for implementation.

The PS will serve as the sheet anchor for framing the Budget and the course of administration in the ensuing year ie 2014. An extremely important condition for vertical take- off is a one off grant to be negotiated with the government with all the persuasive skill that the Chief Minister can marshal. The scope of work and the magnitude of investment in the remaining four years will be determined by the success achieved in: 1) The rapport established with the Central government. 2) Ability in mobilizing resources.

Phase lll – An Action Plan covering the full tenure of the Council needs to be formulated. Under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary (CS) and with the collaboration of the Secretaries, such a Plan has to be prepared. The segment on development will embrace the important sectors in which Education will have precedence. This exercise to commence in October this year should be concluded by September 2014. Within this span of one year, administrative and technical capacity shall have been built up. At all times, direction from the CM and interaction with the Ministers will be available. Discussions with central Ministries and important institutions will be deemed indispensable.

Prospecting for and securing finances will be the most paramount task for the CM and the CS. Foreign aid will form a major component of the finances. This will be done as per the constitutional provisions and with the necessary approvals of the Central government as are mandated by law.

Financial Strategy

Quite correctly there was a query about financial strategy. It is fundamental to any progress. The best course is prescribed by Valluvar. A government should create wealth, consolidate that fund, conserve it and distribute it equitably. A pro-poor approach, however lustily it is bandied about,  can distribute only poverty. It is palpably wrong to imagine that the provincial economy should be having an inner dynamic of its own to generate wealth. All it takes of a politician is to have the generosity of mind and to be resourceful enough to distribute it. If regulations stand in the way, overwhelm them with greater fiscal powers appears to be the attitude.

For the Northern Province, the need of the hour is not more fiscal power than what is available, but far greater FINANCES. For those in governance in the NP, it should be an article of faith that what should precede wealth distribution is its creation. To create it and particularly in the background of decades of regress, investment capital in staggering proportions needs to be mobilized. From where can it come? From foreign aid and the private sector both local and foreign. The state commands meager resources of its own and that too only to provide some rudimentary infrastructure.

A perusal of the nation’s economy and finances will present a picture. In 2012, total tax revenue was about Rs.1. trillion. Debt service payments were close upon Rs.1 trillion. Outstanding Public Debt stood at Rs. 6 trillion while the GDP was Rs. 7.6 trillion. Yet over $ 8 billion are poised to flow in over a few years into the port cities of Colombo and Trincomalee, though as FDI.

Are PC funds any the better? Total expenditure for all 9 PCs in 2012 was Rs, 159 billion out of which Rs. 23 billion was capital expenditure and Rs.136 billion was current expenditure. Of the current amount Rs.101 billion was spent on personal emoluments. The remaining Rs.35 billion went for current expenditure which is more or less mandated as for highways, irrigation, agriculture, buildings, fuel, stationery etc. for maintenance. Grants to PCs at Rs.112 billion by way of central government transfers helped meet the salaries bill. Finally how much is available for deployment? Virtually nothing. For capital expenditure the actual in 2012 was Rs.23 billion for 9 PCs. When amounts committed for continuation works are discounted and new works already identified and budgeted for are also taken into account, funds available will be minimal for inclusion in the course of 2014. It is in this context that donor funding has to be solicited, negotiated for and secured through the goodwill and collaboration of the Central government.

What is fiscal power of the Provincial Council? Power over levy and collection of taxes and authority to spend it along with other funds at the disposal of the Council. What was the level of expenditure of NPC in 2012? How much was collected as taxes? All parameters of collection and of expenditure from Provincial sources would indicate that it is very negligible. It is not sizeable enough even for Western Province which accounts for 44.4% of Provincial GDP. Tax revenue collected by all 9 PCs is Rs. 41 billion or 3.9 % of the nation’s. The latter gets 96.1%.

Reconciliation

A comment was made about “One thought missing”- Reconciliation. The sentiment behind it and the spirit in which it was posed have my appreciation. But can I ever mention it even? Has the moment come for it? Haven’t all Tamils within and without cried in unison with their parched up throats for a swift resumption of normalcy? Wasn’t there a sustained call for civilian governance for four years and more? Didn’t the people demand unanimously that military occupation be diminished substantially? Was any resonance seen from the government? War weary citizenry of the North longed for a change and a peace dividend. They hoped for a return to their place of residence with their house and property handed back. Instead they were herded in ghettos in 2009 and their house and land were confiscated. What the people experience is an iniquitous perpetuation of military occupation for more than four years after war ended.

How did the British set about to make the people of India feel their sense of liberation? With sensitivity to their sentiments they worked out certain timelines.

6 08 1946     Wawell requests Nehru to form Interim Government. Nehru accepts.

2 09 1946     Interim Government sworn in.

1 10 1946     British troops of 80,000 to be reduced to 36,000 by 1 April 1947.

1 04  1948    A further reduction to 23,000 by this date.

If the SL regime announces a similar agenda for civilian governance and army withdrawal, it will be a declaration of welcome intentions that will motivate the NPC and the CM to reciprocate. Then the Northern polity will begin to think, talk and write about Reconciliation, though forceful articulation will take much longer. Yet very many more steps need to be taken by the government to spur the conciliatory frame.

Other Comments

“Worked successfully…..the space will open for further devolution”. This observation of Prof. Silan Kadirgamar is very perceptive. This thread underlay my thinking in the entire narrative. The new administration has to take on this unspectacular but strenuous task. In a few months the spirit of the new order will display itself. Soon after being placed at the helm, Deng Ziao Ping addressed staff and workers at several meetings in order to instill discipline and to tone up. He said “We will transfer you even 365 times if you are found wanting”. There was a marked change and the space of this approach was exhausted within three years. Then a visit of the leadership to Japan opened up vistas of far higher productivity through technology. This was 30 years back.

SK has said “Good governance with whatever powers that are available”. Yes at all times available powers are good enough for efficient administration and frugal management. A fear was expressed by one other that all the flows designated for the North may not reach that place. The greater threat is that  for want of administrative and technical capacity what reaches may not be fully utilized. So building capacity is of grave concern.

 

Purpose Behind

What was your purpose one person asked very overtly. Many might have thought so. Firstly there are several categories of thought and no single trajectory can accommodate them all. What I feared most about the TNA Manifesto was that it would be a relapse into the past, taking us further into the mire. I preferred a wrench freeing us for the future. I wished that political undercurrents are overwhelmed  by economic imperatives and that the latter should engage our attention and consume much of our mental energy. Quite advisedly some preparations made in 1949, 1957, 1976 and thereafter were placed in the back burner. They could be warmed up when the need arises. They are not the best to be served now or to be on the surface of our consciousness.

Resuscitation of the economy is the current compulsion. There may be inadequate realization that a fund flow of nearly 40 billion rupees in 2003 to 2008 has made life tolerable in North East. There may be even less understanding that more than 10 times that amount is needed in the NP alone in the next 10 years, not to become opulent but to be near some of the evenly developed Provinces. According to much of Economic and Social Statistics of the Central Bank available in respect of Provinces for 10 years,

the Northern Province ranked last among all, consistently for 10 years. It may even be for 20 consecutive years. Hence my constant reference for ‘Marshall Plan’, Reparations and a flood like funneling of funds through Central Government with Provincial Government initiative and persistence. To inch along to a common meeting ground, these need front burner placement without the traditional ones crowding them out. To recharge the aquifer after a 30 year drought, a 10 year flood is compulsive.

We have to be mindful of our plight now. The rushing flood post 1983, had taken away whatever water that remained. The land was wiped clean in 2009. Our situation is best portrayed by Chanthiramathi’s (Arichanthiran’s wife and one time Queen) lament and description of her condition. “We have lost our kingdom, our son and all our wealth. What we now have is only our sense of honour”. So let us –Tamils – safeguard the modicum that remains, restore dignity and rebuild our lives. A temporary freeze of intemperance and a jettisoning of the unpalatable are seen as advisable. This is what we admit in private. Why not acknowledge it in public for a while and reach for the pragmatic? TNA has been circumspect in this regard.

A Serious Observation

I have sensed it all my life. Obsession with the last comma and the last decimal is a frailty common to all Tamils. However long the wait, when an arrangement comes out, our inscrutable minds look for completeness and perfection. They must all be compacted in the final effort of the ‘Last Chance’. Failure would mean eternal damnation. Therefore dissection into black and white, seeing no intermediate shades of grey is the only track we can take. If a single weak spot is seen or suspected and yet the formula is well received, the present generation has sold out posterity. The leadership cannot be pardoned for its act of betrayal. So the two parties reassure one another of their fidelity and strike together in rejecting it. Throwing the baby with the bath water at all times has brought us to a single plane of forlornness. These hoops of iron grip us firmly denying any elbow room to move differently. The time is now to blast them away and veer to virgin territory.

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Latest comments

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    One sincerely hopes that the TNA is reading and taking note of this.

    It is heartening to note that this thread has maintained a rational and by-and-large decent discourse.

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      Do

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        Once the election manifesto grandstanding and hot air to garner votes is over, the TOP PRIORITY of the TNA should be PEOPLE-CENTERED DEVELOPMENT for poverty reduction and livelihood generation of vulnerable families and groups.
        For this, TNA dominated by lawyers and half-educated self-serving politicians needs to access the necessary TECHNICAL EXPERTISE and SOCIAL SECTOR EXPERTISE to identify and enable PEOPLE and COMMUNITY CENTERED DEVELOPMENT.
        PEOPLE-CENTERED DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES and STRATEGIES and PROCESSES must be put in place, and EFFECTIVE AID CO-ORDINATION, monitoring and evaluation enabled.
        Development under TNA needs to be PEOPLE-CENTERED – NOT a pile of kick-back intensive white elephant infrastructure. Hence,
        1.Setting up a DEVELOPMENT RESEARCH and COORDINATION UNIT – to identify DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES, STRATEGIES and COORDINATE AID and MONITOR AND EVALUATE delivery of development assistance is important.
        2. A proper poverty and vulnerability assessment and areas and families that are poor and vulnerable and in need of homes and livelihoods should be identified and targeted for poverty reduction assistance.
        3. Get aid for this from international donors and have targeted and TRANSPARENT cash transfers to poor families for poverty reduction in the Northeast.
        Basil Rajapassa’s Divineguam is a political patronage system and will not reduce poverty.

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          Don Stanley

          For your interest in poverty alleviation, I wish to mention that the success story in Tamil Nadu will be helpful. This has a 21 year history in the whole of India with micro credit intervention. TN appears to have registered the most impressive success. The repayment story is 98%+. The Self Help Groups in TN are estimated to be more than 500,000. You may access on Google.

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    Time and Tide waits for none

    The real aspirations of the Tamil community ares being articulated now. They are being expressed in clear terms amidst the political rhetoric vocalized by ignorant non-performers on election platforms who assume the people are fools or can be fooled.. The latter group of people yet live in a past that seeded much travail for the Tamils. They are unable to reach out for the future and frame the current problems confronting the Tamils within that framework.

    This week the world had witnessed the great event of surrender to divinity on the occasion of Nalluran’s There festival in Jaffna , which was an unparalleled sight , after long years of chaos. This is a pointer to a new dawn for the Tamils. The heavy rains that fell in the Jaffna peninsula coinciding with the There was a good omen’. Varuna- the God of nature was blessing us too.

    There was absolute tranquility and palpable vibrations of peace and love emanating on this occasion celebrating the great Nalluran.

    In three years , the expressions of hatred and manifestations of low values will be over powered and subdued for aesthetic , serene vibrations in the entire land. Profanity will be overcome by the profound..

    Everyone will be warmly welcomed with confidence , love, and affection , into the ‘ Moolasthanams’ (Sanctum Sanctorum ) of everyone’s happy homes, which was the norm of this beautiful , serene , Serendib – Sri Lanka ,

    This will definitely happen. The wheel of dharma does not wait for weeping widow or for the arrogance of the mighty emperor, for it does its duty without fear or favour. There is no fear or doubt.

    Let us pray for such occasion to dawn sooner. Good souls are meditating for divine grace and guidance.

    Old Yarlppanathan.

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      Old Yarlpanathan,

      Your’s is a message of hope, amidst the gloom our politicians revel. They are like maggots that thrive in dirt. The People in the north are far ahead of their politicians at present. Their traditional pragmatism is coming to the fore. Their innate intelligence that was buried by decades of utter adversity and emotive political rhetoric is re-asserting itself. The grass has begun to sprout, amidst the barren politics. The spirituality that was the underlying strength of the Tamils is rebounding. The sight of the large number of men, mostly young, who in utter devotion to the almighty,sling themselves aloft on hooks penetrating their skin and are transported over long distances at temple festivals, is an amazing and sobering spiritual experience. Despite the aberrations and social distortions caused by the wars and their aftermath, the Tamils are re-discovering their core values, starting with the spiritual.

      Unfortunately, there are no leaders yet to mobilise and guide this process. My fear is that our politicians are faltering once again and will us fail us again. Politics has become a game for some of the despicable men who aspire to be our leaders. I hope Justice Wigneswaran will make difference and chart a new values-based course in Tamil politics.

      May Naluran bless us, guide us and sustain us , during this process of rediscovering and re-making ourselves, as you have divined.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Disgusting racists.

    No wonder they are stateless. Again begging to end up in Nanthikadal.

    What’s wrong with these losers? Isaipiriya!

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      Fathima Fukushima, have posted your comments in the wrong article?

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      May be you need to re-read your own comment and judge for your self the the degree of racisim that is within you. Introspection will really help people like you.

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    Obviously we will have to more than double up our efforts to at least keep abreast of the other eight provinces over the next ten years or so and I am sure the elected leadership to the Council will be fully aware of that. But the extent to which the Centre will co-operate is to be seen.

    The manifesto is basically a political document and hence it cannot be devoid of rhetoric. For a political fight to win a convincing majority, it is inevitable that Tamil nationalism will get whipped up to a certain degree. That will certainly not mean a regress to a barren past.

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      Having tried to work with TNA in the past on crafting a better manifesto I can confidently say that the “barren past” is well and truly alive within the party. The reason is quite simple. We tamils have not built institutions which represent us, on solid moral and ethical foundations. We favor nepotism over meritocracy. We favor boot licking and back slapping over principles and values. We prefer to externalise all problems rather than look at what might be wrong internally (I know it is comforting to externalise problems!!!).We prefer to remain victims of circumstances forever than curate a better future for us all. We continuously resist giving others the chance to inject new ideas and bring about changes for greater good. Just go to Canada, Australia, UK etc and have a look at the institutions we have built and the way they operate.

      People make the institutions what it is. If we pick the right people, inject the right ethos and culture and hold those people to account the institutions will serve our interests. And the institutions will live long after the people are gone. Let us remember that we rise and fall based on our mindset and the choices we make. In this regard it is heartening to come across sensible elders like Mr.Sivathasan who are still around to pass on their wisdom to my generation. Thank you Mr.Sivathasan.

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        Sundar,

        The Tamil dilemma could not have been described better or more precisely. Thanks. I am glad to see a young person of your calibre among the Tamils. There is yet hope for us, as a community.

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        You are perfectly right Sundar.
        Tamils have not built institutions to represent themselves on ethical and moral foundations and it is impossible to even discuss the subject with our so called leaders because their only aim is to get elected. Having tried to work with them they fear open scrutiny but will admit faults privately.They cannot afford to introspect on their own faults.Politics is a survival game for them and not for the people they are supposed to represent.

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    “That will certainly not mean a regress to a barren past”
    That too we’ll have to wait and see.

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    Mr Sivathasan,

    Thank you for the article and in particular for this estimate
    “Resuscitation of the economy is the current compulsion. There may be inadequate realization that a fund flow of nearly 40 billion rupees in 2003 to 2008 has made life tolerable in North East. There may be even less understanding that more than 10 times that amount is needed in the NP alone in the next 10 years, not to become opulent but to be near some of the evenly developed Provinces.”

    Thank you for answering my question in https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/tasks-ahead-in-the-northern-province/

    I did a quick conversion 400billian rupees = 3978400000 sterling pounds.

    I will definitely do my part. There are so many like me. It is not a big amount for the Tamil diaspora. But it is a big task for the leaders.

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