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Development will go on apace in North

2013 Dec 02

By Ranil Wijayapala

Minister Douglas Devananda

By refusing to implement the Mahinda Chinthana in the Northern province, the Tamil National Alliance and Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneshvaran are attempting to implement a 'Magadi Chinthana' in the Northern province, Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda said. Discussing various issues relating to the Tamil community in an interview with the Sunday Observer, Minister Devananda said that the TNA was the spoke in the wheel and prevented the people in the North of benefiting from the Indian Premier visiting Sri Lanka for CHOGM. However, Minister Devananda said despite the Northern people's decision to be with the TNA the Government will not stand against development in the North and will go ahead with it but is opposed to terrorism.
Following are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Sri Lanka successfully hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa became the chairperson of the CHOGM. In your view what benefit could Sri Lanka gain from this ?

A: Sri Lanka gained recognition by hosting this event. President Mahinda Rajapaksa gained unstinted recognition for the leadership qualities shown during the summit. The other important factor is the investments that Sri Lanka attracted during the Business Forum. It was a successful forum. Many investors attended and committed themselves to various investments in Sri Lanka. Apart from this the attitude of many countries towards Sri Lanka changed after this event. Many countries which participated had a different opinion about our country, but after visiting the country they understood the real situation and appreciated the achievements. This in itself is a great achievement.

Q: We saw two different opinion on Sri Lanka during CHOGM. When countries like Australia praised Sri Lanka for what it has achieved after the end of the war on terrorism, countries such as Britain criticized Sri Lanka for what happened in the past. How do you see this situation ?

A: Countries like Britain came here with a biased opinion and with a different political agenda. British Prime Minister David Cameron, if he was genuine he could have met the people having diverse views. He met only opposition politicians during his visit to the North. He did not meet any government representative or the community living in the North. These are just reasons for us to believe that he came here with a hidden agenda. When there are many media institutions in the Jaffna peninsula he met only representatives of one single newspaper. But countries like Australia came here with open minds and did not have any hidden agenda.

Q: The people in the Northern province was the central focus during CHOGM and many leaders wanted to visit the North. In your opinion how did people in the North benefit from this endeavour ?

A: British Premier David Cameron visited the Jaffna peninsula. But people in the North expected Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to attend CHOGM and visit the Jaffna peninsula. It was the Tamil community in the North were the biggest losers due to Dr. Manmohan Singh not attending CHOGM. If he had come for CHOGM he could have visited the North and announced relief packages for the Tamil community. That would have also been an opportunity to strengthen the 13th Amendment and to have discussions with the Tamil National Alliance and show them how to conduct the Northern Provincial Council. The Indian fishermen issue could have also been discussed. The Tamil community could have solved so many issues if he came to Sri Lanka. It was the TNA which deprived the Northern people of that opportunity. That is why they have protested against R. Sampanthan and demanded to know what he had discussed with David Cameron. People in the North feel that they have been disregarded by the TNA.

Q: In your opinion what was the reason for Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh not to attend CHOGM ?

A: One reason was due to the campaign of the TNA and their leader. R. Sampanthan went to India and said Tamil people do not want him to come to Sri Lanka and urged him to boycott CHOGM. The local politics of Tamil Nadu was also another factor. Tamil Nadu elections were also to be held there. The Indian Prime Minister wanted to appease Tamil Nadu politicians including the Congress Party in the South. We can understand if this happened at the height of the election campaign. The Tamil Nadu politicians wanted to disturb that peaceful situation and wanted the Premier to not to attend CHOGM.

Q: It was evident during the Northern Provincial Council election that people were not impressed with the development drive carried out by the Government in the North. So how do you see this situation and how do you think the Government can impress the people in the North ?

A: What I feel is that our strategies may be wrong. We could change the strategy. When the TNA asked to vote for Fonseka they voted him at the Presidential election. People think differently. When you read the Tamil newspapers daily you will go crazy. They use sensational reporting to attract the people. Newspapers in the North carried out a subtle campaign against the Government since the Local Government election in the North. People in the North had everything - infrastructure, peace and freedom of movement. Media personnel with vested interest had a bad influence on them. These media institutions are like coffin makers who wait for someone to die. Similarly these media personnel think that people must suffer and they don' t want to see the problems of the Tamil people being solved. Since there are no alternative newspapers for the people to read, they are influenced by these reports. People are traumatized by these news reports. Therefore, we have to take a different strategy to approach the people.

Q: The Northern Province Chief Minister has refused to participate at the Jaffna District Development Committee saying that the Chief Minister should be given the Chair of the District Development Committee. What is the real situation behind this issue?

A: The regulations regarding the District Development Committee clearly stated that senior Minister of the district will be appointed by the President as the Chairman of the committee. The Chief Minister of the Province will be appointed as the co-chair. MP Sumanthiran being a lawyer also in a newspaper interview said that Chief Minister is Chairman of that committee. They are giving a wrong message to the country. Through newspapers they are doing that. President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a letter sent to the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister has clearly stated that he has been appointed as the co-chair of the committee. He has said that the Mahinda Chinthana has already been accepted by the country and it has to be implemented through District Development Committees.

Q: Do you think the differences between the Government and the Northern Provincial Council would lead to a conflict situation in the country ?

A: I don't think there will be any problem due to these differences. Earlier we had such problems but the Government neutralized such situations.

Q: Do you think the TNA has a clear vision to develop the Northern Province ?

A: Now the national policy is the Mahinda Chinthana. But the policy of the TNA is the 'Magadi Chinthana'. How can we expect them to work for the benefit of the people in the North. If the Prime Minister of India came to Sri Lanka for CHOGM the people in the North would have benefited. But the TNA prevented it because they have vested interests. I have been saying this from the beginning. What I have told in the past has happened and what I am talking about is taking place now. We can predict what will happen in the future too.

They had enough opportunities to solve the problems faced by the people, but they did not make use of the opportunities. Either they should create a situation to solve the problem or else they should make use of the situation to solve the problem. The Provincial Council system is a good mechanism. But that system is in the wrong hands .

Q: As a person working with the Tamil people from the beginning we feel that you have not been able to convince them. The Tamil people are still with the TNA. What have you to say ?

A: What the TNA is doing and what I am doing are two different things. They are swimming across the river with sand on their back and I am swimming across the river keeping heavy stones on my back. I don't have any problem in joining with the TNA. If I have joined the TNA at the beginning I would be the leader of the TNA today. But I did not join with the TNA due to policy differences. My policy is that we can solve the problems faced by the Tamil people only through negotiations with the Government. Now people have fallen to the trap laid by the TNA and they followed them at the Northern Provincial Council election. People did not follow us at the election. But this situation will not prevail for long. People will realise what they have done.

We believe this situation will change soon. I engaged in politics not because of personal benefit but because of my commitment to the community and the country. I am engaged in politics to fulfill my duties to the people and also to the country. But some southern politicians have misunderstood this situation. Sometimes, I feel sad because I feel that the southern politicians are not concerned about solving the problems of the Tamil people.

They should realise that I am engaged in politics to solve the problems of the Tamil people. Some southern politicians make allegations against me and my party with hidden agendas in their minds to create problems among us. There is no truth in those allegations and they are making those allegations even without any idea about the statements we have made in Parliament regarding the comments made in the LLRRC report about me and the party.

Q: Though the Government has developed the North people feel that development has not taken place at grassroot level. People this was a major factor which had an impact on the voting at the PC election. Do you agree with this argument ?

A: This Government is developing the country as a whole without favouring any region or area. But due to the destruction during the war time, the Northern province has been given priority in development activities. We have not made use of these development activities for political gain. We feel that is a weakness on our part. When we take the budget proposals for 2014, the highest amount of funds has been allocated to the Northern province for development.

Q: The High Security Zone issue is raised again and again at various fora. How do you react to this situation ?

A: There is some truth about the High Security Zone issue. But we feel that we can negotiate but the people are hesitant to deal with the Government. The people will realise their folly. Only if they negotiate can we get the Government to intervene.

Q: Due to the defeat of the UPFA in the Northern Province people feel that the Government will neglect the development in the North. Is there anything for the people to think like that?

A: The Government will be against terrorism but it will not stand in the way of development. That is why I said earlier that the Government is going ahead with development activities and has allocated the highest amount of funds for the development of the Northern province in the 2014 budget.

Q: How is the Parliament Select Committee progressing to find a political solution for the ethnic issue. Will it be a fruitful effort without the TNA and the Opposition ?

A: The PSC is going on and only the TNA and the main Opposition has not taken part in the process. If they participate it will be fruitful. We have given them more time. They are not participating because they know that when they participate the problem will be solved. They do not want to solve the problem. According to my opinion the Provincial Council will be the starting point. Now we have already implemented it and can strengthen the system to find a permanent solution for the political grievances of the Tamil people.



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