By S.Sivathasan –
Knowing full well that a very productive meeting will take place between two stalwarts in a face to face engagement, I spoke to Chief Minister on 15th night. He was happy to speak quite precisely about the path breaking discussion he had with Prime Minister Cameron.
Uppermost in the Chief Minister’ mind was the effective functioning of the Northern Provincial Council. Towards this end, he requested support from the Prime Minister and also his assistance. He supplemented his conversation with a prepared document outlining six issues of great concern. They were:
1) Demilitarisation of Northern Province and Transition from Military to Civilian Governor. The CM pointed out the clear statement in the Manifesto and the overwhelming vote received for its endorsement.
2) Full implementation of the 13th Amendment with a view to obtaining maximum devolution possible. To ensure meaningful devolution, the need to assign land and police powers to NPC was stressed.
3) Strengthening and building Institutional Capacity of Northern Provincial Council and Provincial Administration. The importance of grants and technical assistance including info-communication assets was urged.
4) Resettlement of the Internally Displaced. Funding and expertise to carry out this programme to meet international norms were seen as imperative.
5) Post War Reconstruction and Rebuilding. The struggling Northern Province would look forward to UK taking the initiative together with Commonwealth partners, EU and USA to think of a ‘Marshall Plan’ not for restitution but for redevelopment.
6) Education and Employment. Developing capacities in secondary and vocational segments is deemed essential. More important is to set sights at tertiary level particularly in ICT. For this purpose establishment of a ‘Northern Institute of Information Technology’- NIIT, under the aegis of the UK Government is envisaged.
The Chief Minister handed over three separate documents, outlining the above. Regarding Education, there was a lengthy note on establishing a Northern Institute of Information Technology. Prime Minister Cameron promised to look into all of them. He also undertook to take up every matter that was discussed with the President with whom he had a dinner engagement on Friday night.
To begin with there were questions by the Prime Minister and answers from the Chief Minister. About the discussion that followed, Cameron commented “I had talked to so many about the Sri Lankan problem both in Sri Lanka as well as abroad. But this was the most lucid, clear, pointed, easy and logical discussion I have had. I thank you Mr. Chief Minister for that”. He didn’t fail to extend an invitation to the Chief Minister to No. 10, Downing Street saying “ He would be delighted to look after me when I come.”
The Chief Minister had this to say about the Prime Minister “ He is no doubt a handsome man and just one inch taller than I. Talks fast, thinks fast, on the dot and focused with regard to his facts and what he wants to find out. Quite young too.”
The Prime Minister was received by Mr. Sampanthan, Mr. sumanthiran and Chief Minister Wigneswaran. He said “he was happy that after 1948, he was the first Head of Government to visit Jaffna”. The venue of the meeting was kept under wraps. Discussions took place in the 1st floor of Jaffna public library. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Edward Llewellyn, Chief of Staff to the PM.
On their way back from the meeting, Chief Minister noted that the PM’s car was mobbed by the dear ones of those who were missing. There were shouts and sobs and an open expression of grief. The PM’s desire to meet them was being served.
The best part of the meeting was that it started on an encouraging note and ended with hopes of optimism.
[A comprehensive report will follow]