Reply by Justice C.V. Wigneswaran – Leader, Thamizh Makkal Thesya Kootani in Parliament on 21st August, 2020 to the Policy statement made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka.
By C.V. Wigneswaran –
Honourable Deputy Chairman of Committees!
I am happy that I get a chance to speak when Your Honour is presiding. Let me congratulate you on your being elected to this honoured post.
I am indeed privileged to take part in this discussion with regard to the Policy Statement of His Excellency.
I must say I carry no – isms that condition nor motivate me. I have no prejudices against the President on Party lines nor racial lines. My sole purpose in participating in this discussion is to investigate the effect the Policy Statement might have on the people of the North and East. I would find no difficulty in praising the President for the good statements of policy enunciated nor seek to point out adversely comments relating to prejudicial statements of policy enunciated in the Policy Statement.
The most glaring aspect of the Policy Statement is that it puts forward a centralized perspective of a Government of the Sinhala Buddhists, by the Sinhala Buddhists, for the Sinhala Buddhists. There is no reference to the decades’ old problems of the Tamil speaking denizens of the North and East. The North and East while being part of Sri Lanka is majority Tamil Speaking. It would have been ideal if His Excellency would have had a holistic attitude toward the Island keeping in mind the necessity to view the problems of the periphery from the stand point of subsidiarity. Sadly this is a glaring shortcoming in his Excellency’s Policy Statement.
Nevertheless let me refer to some of the salient features of the Policy Statement which we agree with, since they form the substratum of the policies of the Tamizh Makkal Thesya Kootani which I represent today.
Let me refer to them –
1. The statement says the prime responsibility of the People’s Representatives is to serve the public. I am glad that His Excellency considers our positions as responsibilities and not privileges. That is our view too.
2. We are in total agreement with him in saying “our duty and responsibility is not to distribute job opportunities but to generate them”. Generation of job opportunities is the need of the hour.
3. We agree that our basic aim should be to strengthen the local economy and to increase export income. But on our part we believe strengthening of the local economy should be viewed from the subsidiarity point of view. The Tamil Speaking areas should be able to strengthen their economy from their perspectives as conditioned by their tradition, heritage, needs and ethos. We should not clamp outside values and methods on the local population.
4. We agree that we should assist local entrepreneurs to use modern technology for value addition, to encourage innovation and to explore new market opportunities in a creative manner.
5. We agree the production of toxin free foods and ensuring total organic farming in Sri Lanka is an urgent necessity. I remember Madam Chandrika’s vision in this regard when I met her in 1994 or there about, to provide toxin free vegetables and fruits to consumers in Urban areas at an increased price. I am not sure her vision materialized.
6. Modernisation of fisheries harbors to provide facilities for multi day fishing boats that fish in deep sea is to be welcomed. But again the principle of subsidiarity must be followed providing facilities for those in the local areas to participate in such processes. If fishermen were to come from outside the Northern and Eastern provinces to benefit by these processes it would affect the livelihood of the fishermen of the local areas. Hence modernisation and strengthening of the fisheries sector must consider local needs and conditions.
7. New technology to develop inland fresh water fisheries industry is to be welcomed. We desire de-silting of tanks in our Northern areas. Some tanks could be fitted with solar panels installed on their surfaces to produce electricity.
8. We welcome State Ministers being given monetary provisions required to implement development projects and financial responsibilities directly being placed with them. This in effect is a principle of subsidiarity.
9. We fully agree with the steps to be taken to completely eradicate waste and corruption in all Ministries and institutions.
10. We agree that Members of Parliament must visit their constituencies to understand People’s issues and find solution to them.
Let me now come to our reservations.
1. His Excellency says he will not violate the trust placed on him by his voters. That is an admirable sentiment. But while carrying out his responsibilities he must be aware of the checks and balances placed on him by Law and social expectations. Legally, let me point out an example of a constraining factor. When His Excellency brings an end to the existing constitution he must realize the 13th Amendment therein was inserted under an Agreement reached with another Sovereign Country at that time representing the interests of an important section of our citizenry. Hence that Country viz. India, must be a party to any attempt to delete the 13th Amendment inserted consequent to an International Agreement. He cannot put away the 13th Amendment arbitrarily however feeble in content it may be vis a vis our people of the North and East.
2. Next His Excellency says he represents the aspirations of the majority. Does that mean he would take into account the aspirations of the majority of the North and East viz. the Tamil speaking people in dealing with our matters and affairs? Otherwise it would amount to arbitrary hegemony of the majority of the country over the majority of the North and East, ###
3. Next His Excellency speaks of preserving the archaeological remains in various parts of this Island. Would His Excellency let us know if he is aware of the existence of Demala Baudayos or Buddhist Tamils at a certain period of our history? If so would his Presidential Task Force make mention that those archeological remains found in the North and East are of the period when Demala Baudayos lived in those areas? Otherwise a wrong perception would emerge that those Buddhist areas were Sinhala Buddhist.
4. Next His Excellency is interested in securing the lives of our Citizens. That is an admirable sentiment. But any attempt to arbitrarily target minorities to show them as anti -social elements under the cover of security would prove counter-productive.
5. His Excellency’s attempts to encourage our journey towards a self -reliant economy are appreciated and welcomed. But if such attempts were to debilitate certain weaker sections of our Community, then they must be investigated and any imbalance must be corrected.
6. With regard to deeds being not available to our people in respect of the lands they occupy, the reasons must be investigated impartially and corrective steps taken as found necessary in terms of the Law.
7. Regarding preventive fences against elephants so far constructed, such fences have not helped to solve the problem. There is an innovation recently introduced which should be considered in earnest, where hanging fences are used instead of fences constructed on Land.
8. Next a process to desalinate sea water at cheap rates might be considered for villages affected by shortage of water. Such small scale desalination plants are used by Israel and India successfully.
9. Regarding His Excellency’s desire to provide employment we need to consider the necessity to make employment available to persons in local areas in consonance with the needs and aspirations of those local areas. Any attempt to ‘import’ labour of any sort from outside could be a source of irritation among the local people.
10. Regarding His Excellency’s desire to make Human Resources’ development a priority, I am sure it would be welcomed. But we need to formulate a syllabus which includes the teaching of the true history and heritage of the people of this Country in their daily curriculum. Any lop sided pre- meditated wrong placement of historical data into our History Books would prove counter – productive.
May I therefore suggest a highly professional Committee of Historians consisting of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim as well as foreign Historians qualified in South East Asian affairs be appointed, to rewrite the ancient History of this Island in the light of the latest historical evidence recovered. We might then be convinced of the presence of Demala Baudayos in our Country at some part of our History.
11. There is another matter regarding natural resources such as gems and minerals. We should make sure that expropriation of resources in any local area by those from outside the areas of deposits must be curtailed and controlled. Local entrepreneurs must be given preference in the unearthing and processing of the resources in any area.
12. Let me next refer to His Excellency’s concept of One Country One Law for all the people in this Country. I am sure my colleagues here would deal with that concept in earnest. But let me say here that that concept is very dangerous to say the least. It would be opposed by all sections of our society for good reasons.
Let me conclude by saying His Excellency’s vision must not be based on his conditioned background but be from a holistic background where His Excellency would empathise with the problems of all our people wherever they may be resident or living. Let me advise His Excellency with all due respect as follows – Please do not clamp down your ideas and your aspirations on our people – the people of the North and East of Sri Lanka. I thank you for the opportunity given to me to participate in this discussion.
*Reply by Justice C.V. Wigneswaran – Leader, Thamizh Makkal Thesya Kootani in Parliament on 21st August, 2020 to the Policy statement made by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the inauguration of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament of Sri Lanka.
### – Due to lack of time only upto this point this script was used. The script was handed over to the Parliament Officials to be used for publication by the Hansard Department