COLOMBO: In a progressive step welcomed by Tamil leaders, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday appointed Reginald Cooray, an acclaimed leftist liberal and a veteran Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) politician, as Governor of the Tamil-majority Northern Province.
The 1947-born Cooray succeeds former civil servant HMGS Palihakkara, who voluntarily demitted office last week on completion of his short term fixed by an agreement between him and the Sirisena government.
Cooray was Minister of Minor Crops Export Promotion during the Rajapaksa regime. The Kalutara district politician had also been Governor of the Western Province twice. He did not contest the parliamentary elections held in August 2015 saying that he lacked the financial resources to contest successfully.
Cooray’s re-entry into political life as Governor of the problematic Northern Province is believed to be due to the efforts of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who heads a committee to bring about reconciliation in the island nation.
Cooray will have the support of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which has a majority in the Northern Provincial Council (NPC). “ He is an appropriate choice. He has very liberal views,” TNA chief R.Sampanthan told Express. The Minister of National Coexistence, Mano Ganeshan, said: “Cooray understands the Tamil question.”
A staunch defender of minority rights, Cooray told The Sunday Leader: “ In a democracy, all decisions are being taken by the majority, but the majority is not always right.”
However, despite his acceptability among the Tamils in general and the TNA in particular, Cooray may not find it smooth sailing in the North, given the radicalization of its politics by Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran, who is leading a group named Tamil Peoples’ Council against the official leadership of the TNA.
Cooray is taking up his post also at a time when the relationship between Chief Minister Wigneswaran and the Government in Colombo is at a new low. The soft-spoken and dovish out- going Governor Palihakkara, had left the province last week without fanfare, virtually ignored by Chief Minister Wigneswaran. The CM made only a brief appearance at the party given by Palihakkara to say good-bye to his colleagues in the province.