Hon’ Governor, Hon’ Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Hon’ Minister D.M.Swaminathan, Hon’ Deputy Minister Mrs.Vijekala Maheswaran, Hon’ Ministers of the Provincial Council, officers of the Northern Provincial Council, other officers, my dear brothers and sisters,
The change in Government is showing favourably in the number of visits by VIPs from Colombo last few days. We welcome all of them. Earlier the point of contact of the Ministers from the Central Government was a Minister who ran his Establishment from a Theater close by a theatre building to which rent was not paid for a considerable number of years or never paid. Now fortunately our Ministers are reaching out to us and to our officers. We are thankful to them for showing tremendous understanding with regard to our plight. There are a number of matters Hon Gamini Jayawickrama Perera and his officers would be speaking to us today. Let us take cognisance of them and bring about better understanding with the South. Quicker and cheaper marketing of our produce is one area the Hon’ Minister is very much interested in. He has suggested the use of the Railway in this regard.
There is a specialty in Hon’ Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera. He has been a Chief Minister of Wayamba Provincial Council soon after the Indo – Sri Lanka Agreement and the 13th Amendment. Thus he is one of the pioneers in working out the 13th Amendment. He was then my neighbor at the Summit Flats in Keppitipola Mawatha, Colombo. It is nice to renew our friendship after such a long time. The Hon’ Minister is very enthusiastic about greater co-operation between North and South. His special area of interest is the creation of a vibrant co-operative movement. Lots of rights have been plucked from us since the time Hon’ Minister was Chief Minister. We lost some during the Presidency of Mr.Premadasa, some due to Supreme Court decisions and so much under the Divineguma. The 13th Amendment today is a much emaciated document.
We have in Hon’ Minister D.M.Swaminathan a pragmatic and practical Minister. He had been a Governor of the Western Province for some time. He too is familiar with the working of the Provincial Council. He has come over to put into effect the promise he gave us when we went and met him in Colombo a few weeks ago. At least the process of handing over of land unwanted by the Army to its lawful owners is now starting. Areas have been identified and earmarked. Within three weeks let us hope that our suffering and deprived dear brothers and sisters would be able to go back to their own lands. Though we are very happy that an area of 1000 acres is being handed over, it must be recorded here that we have asked for at least 5500 acres to be returned. Around 6500 acres of land have been arbitrarily taken over by the Army in the Valikamam North area only since the end of the war in 2009 and not returned. These are mostly fertile agricultural lands to which the owners have proper deeds. I pointed out to the Hon’ Minister the other day in Colombo that a maximum of 1000 acres is all what the Army needs to protect Palali Air Port and K.K.S Port. Anything more is excess land arbitrarily retained.
The balance 5500 acres can be returned to their lawful owners. The Army must not be allowed to be parasitic on us. They are cultivating our fertile lands for their benefit; they are using our good water and depriving us of our water in an area where water is precious. They are polluting our areas with their waste; they are a source of irritation and fear in our midst. Recent public pronouncements that even a single Army Camp would not be withdrawn even if it was for the consumption of the Southern Electorate could have been avoided. It had the effect of our response by passing a Resolution on Genocide. Please remember we feel very strongly against the continued stay of the Armed Forces in our areas. Until they are removed except in areas of strategic importance we would feel threatened.
Yet we are happy that this Government is taking positive steps to improve the quality of life of our people. We are equally aware of the fact that a proper resolution of our problems could not be achieved merely by giving back what we are already entitled to. Because the previous Government deprived us of our legitimate rights, the handing back of what is legitimately ours might seem a great boon to us. In a practical way these handings over however limited in scope they may be, are no doubt helpful to us. The change of the Governor and the Chief Secretary are no doubt in the right direction. But they were legitimately already our rights. Deprived rights. Politically deprived rights!
May I also point out to this august assembly of Ministers and officials that there is a 67 year old ethnic problem still hanging fire. We have not solved that yet. When we were voted to power it was on the basis that we would strive to bring about a settlement within a united Sri Lanka, that we would ensure the recognition of our individualism in the North and East and that we would strive for maximum devolution by the Central Government.
This settlement is essential so that none would put us back into the Sea of turmoil and despair again. While expecting a permanent solution to our innumerable problems, we do welcome the concern of the Central Government and its Ministers in the welfare of our people. As we go on you would recognize our concerns and needs. Please do not indulge subtlety in exercises which the earlier Government engaged in openly. If our concerns and fears are understood this Country could rise up to its pristine glory.
[Dialogue with Representatives of Co-operatives’ Movement and Farmer Organizations at Jaffna Public Library Auditorium
28th February 2015 at 9.30 am Chief Minister’s Speech ]