South Asia

Sri Lanka Northern Council holds historic first session

NPC Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and Governor G.A Chandrasiri, having a word ahead of its first session on Friday. Photo: Meera Srinivasan

NPC Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and Governor G.A Chandrasiri, having a word ahead of its first session on Friday. Photo: Meera Srinivasan

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) will take up demilitarisation and land rights as issues of top priority while pursuing its goal of democratic governance, said C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province here on Friday.

Addressing the inaugural session of the Council, formed after the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) recorded an impressive victory winning 30 out of 38 seats in the recent NPC polls, Mr. Wigneswaran urged the Sri Lankan government to confine the military to barracks.

Attired in traditional costume — off-white silk kurta , white Dhoti and angavastram (shawl) — Mr. Wigneswaran, in what colleagues later termed “a powerful speech”, said the NPC was willing to lend a hand of friendship to the Centre and hoped that it would cooperate with the newly-elected Council.

All the 38 Councillors, the chairman and secretary, senior leaders including TNA’s R. Sampanthan were seated inside the red-carpeted assembly hall of the NPC complex. The NPC complex in Kaithady, near Jaffna, had been renovated for this important day — the historic, first ever NPC session. The walls wore a new coat of white paint and tall posts with flags swaying in different colours surrounded the now famous building.

With classical music by Nagaswaram and Thavil artistes and cheerful floral decoration, the venue was a site of celebration. The speech of Mr. Wigneswaran also reflected the significance of the day — which laid the long-awaited platform for the rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamils.

Urging the government to ensure that the army stopped taking over private land in the north, he said: “It is important to draw a time-frame for the military to return the land taken over in such a manner to the rightful owners.”

On 13th Amendment

The NPC elections, Mr. Wigneswarn said, was an outcome of the 13th Amendment — the constitutional amendment that followed the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 — but the 13th Amendment was clearly inadequate to address the aspirations of the northern people.

“It [13th Amendment] is like a vessel with a hole and seems good for nothing,” he said. It is also a matter of concern that it did not pave way for the independent functioning of the Provincial Council, he said. However, he expressed hope that the Centre would work with the NPC towards peace and reconciliation.

Reaching out to the South — populated by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority — he said they must understand that the Tamils have rejected separatism as an option. “We are against any form of violence,” he emphasised.

Outlining some of the major tasks lined up for the NPC administration, he said the Council would work towards rehabilitating the Muslims who were forcibly evicted from the north in the early 1990s.

He called for a civilian to be appointed as Governor of the Province — the present Governor was a Major General in the army. Mr. Wigneswaran also urged the Centre to appoint Tamil-speaking police personnel in the north, who would understand the people’s aspirations, language and culture.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 9:19:26 am |