By C. V. Wigneswaran’s Private Secretary –
Responding to an opinion article on the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C. V. Wigneswaran, by Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, titled ‘Is The Chief Minister Of The NPC Ethically & Morally Fit To Govern?‘, published in July 28, 2015, Private Secretary to the Chief Minister sent the following clarification to the Editor today.
Article titled ‘Is The Chief Minister Of The NPC Ethically & Morally Fit To Govern?’ Posted on 28 July 2015
We write with reference to the above article written by Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan of the Point Pedro Institute of Development appearing in your website on 28.07.2015. We are surprised to note that no steps were taken by you to verify the malicious and defamatory allegations levelled against the Hon. Chief Minister of the Northern Province prior to publishing the said article. We hold you to high journalistic standards and are most disappointed by this lapse.
With regard to the several calumnies contained in the article, we wish to place on record the Chief Minister’s position so that the public may make up their own minds:
(a) The Ho. Chief Minister did indeed have the privilege of concluding a very productive meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the World Hindu Congress held in India. The Congress, being one related to Hinduism, naturally and obviously focused on challenges faced by Hindus.
The Ho. Chief Minister’s address was titled ‘Whither Hindus?’ and highlighted among other things the following as matters affecting Hindus in Sri Lanka:
i. According to the figures released by the Sri Lankan Government’s own Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs, out of the 1607 registered Hindu temples 1479 were damaged as of 1993.
ii. In 2010, which had seen the brutal end to the war in the previous year, the Memorandum forwarded to the Director General of the UNESCO by the Hindu Religious Priests’ Organization of the North East Province said “More than 1560 Hindu temples have been damaged and rendered useless while 240 Hindu temples have been totally destroyed due to the ongoing war in the North and East”.
iii. The Centre for Policy Alternatives, a leading think tank in its March 2013 report stated “Access to temples in High Security Zones and areas restricted by the Military; Military intrusion into religious practices and rituals; Buddhist and other religious symbols being set up in the vicinity of Hindu religious sites; allegations of destruction of kovils and shrines; disputes over archaeological sites; threats to religious places from development activity; concerns of conversions from Hinduism to other religions” and listed them as the major impediments facing the Hindus of the North and East.
iv. When he attempted to visit an area as the Chief Minister, upon hearing that Army personnel were destroying a Hindu place of worship, he was politely denied access by the Army.
(b) The malicious nature of the article is quite evident in that it faults the Hon. Chief Minister for failing to mention the travails faced by minorities other than Hindus in Sri Lanka. Though the article refers to the Chief Minister’s Kannabiran Memorial address, which was referred to as ‘an appeal to India’s conscience’ by reputed Indian journalist K. Venkataramanan (see The Hindu, November 14, 2014), it suppresses the fact that the Chief Minister had specifically mentioned the challenges faced by Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka at that time, in such address.
(c) Given the nature of the event, it was entirely natural that several Hindu organizations were represented at the event and that the Chief Minister had occasion to meet representatives of those organizations and discuss matters relating to Hinduism, challenges faced by Hindus and shared experiences in overcoming those challenges within a democratic framework.
(d) We also wish to point out that the Chief Minister was a founder member of the Congress of Religions (See Section 4, Congress of Religions Act No 13 of 1970) and was instrumental in inviting the Mahanayaka Thera to visit Jaffna in 1965. He has represented Hindu viewpoints at several inter-religious meetings held in Sri Lanka and has an excellent working relationship and understanding with other religious leaders.
(e) While a proper investigation into certain matters adverted to will shed light on numerous injustices caused, the Chief Minister declines to comment on matters connected with his personal religious beliefs. He believes that such discussion in public forums is in poor taste.
(f) The article refers to the Chief Minister not meeting “useful persons from overseas and within” and refers to one meeting with the Malaysian Special Envoy on Infrastructure to India and Southern Asia and a complaint by some Provincial Councillors. The circumstances under which the meeting with the Malaysian Envoy could not take place were explained in detail by the Hon. Chief Minister to the Provincial Council on 17.03.2015. In brief, the details pertaining to the meeting were not communicated clearly by the then government liaisons organizing the meeting.
(g) The Hon. Chief Minister has been accessible to his Provincial Councillors in person at his office and at his residence. Certain communication issues through electronic and telecommunication means were faced and have been addressed. Those issues arose due to the lack of resources the NPC faces.
(h) A simple perusal of the newspapers over the last one and half years will demonstrate the number of personnel, both overseas and local, that the Ho. Chief Minister has had productive meetings with. In fact, the Chief Minister has had communications even with the author himself.
(i) The Ho. Chief Minister condemns the defamatory and baseless allegations made against Mr. Karthikeyan, and unequivocally denies that Mr. Karthikeyan was ever a Tamil Tiger member in any capacity whatsoever. Mr. Karthikeyan is a respected former officer of the UNDP in Sri Lanka, who is committed to the welfare of the Tamil Speaking Peoples. His interaction with the Tamil Tigers was in the discharge of his professional obligations as the Deputy Project Manager, UNDP Transition Project during the ceasefire period from 2002 to 2004. Several civil society members, government officials and UN officials were involved in the UNDP Transition Project and Mr. Karthikeyan’s role was officially authorized and transparent. Thereafter he had offered his services for post tsunami relief work with INGOs and NGOs (during the period of Cease Fire Agreement). His appointment as a UNDP Official was subject due processes established by UN. Mr. Karthikeyan, an old boy of Royal College, Colombo, has obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA), from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, and is currently reading for his Doctorate in Social Sciences on Challenges in transition from militancy to democracy – case study of Sri Lanka at the University of Sydney, Australia. Obtaining his services to assist in the enhancing of the capacity of the NPC would indeed be useful.
The Hon. Chief Minister’s interactions with him were in furtherance of Mr. Karthikeyan’s academic pursuits, in the context of Mr. Karthikeyan’s abiding interest in the democratic well being of the Tamil Speaking Peoples of Sri Lanka.
The Ho. Chief Minister appreciates and welcomes fair criticism of his official functions, and only expects that a view from his office is sought prior to publication of articles that are manifestly intended to malign him. We trust that in the highest journalistic tradition you would publish this response with equal coverage on your print and electronic media.
Private Secretary to the Chief Minister\Northern Province