Tamil Diplomat

Continual Army stationed in the Northern Province necessarily lays the foundation for violence: NPC Chief Minister in London

Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran has condemned that continual Army stationed in the Northern Province necessarily lays the foundation for violence.

The Chief Minister of Northern Province delivering the keynote address at the signing ceremony of the ‘Twin City Agreement’ between the City of Jaffna and the City of Kingston, London, yesterday, Tuesday evening in the Kingston Municipal Chamber, London.

The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka  for the UK , Ms.AmariWijewardene, the Councillors of Kingston and a large number of Tamil People living in the UK, by invitation participated in this event held at the Kingston Municipal Council Chamber.

The Chief Minister also accused that the army has disseised several thousand acres of land and creating hindrance to Development activities, livelihood and business activities of the people in the North.

He expressed optimism that under this agreement projects could be undertaken in several sectors and that using this opportunity the Tamil Diaspora will make constructive contributions.

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The full speech of the Chief Minister is available here:

Mr.Chairman, Honourable Members of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, distinguished guests, my dear brothers and sisters,

It is indeed a fortunate day for us from the Northern Provincial Council. Signing of a Twinning Memorandum of Understanding between your Borough and the Jaffna District in Northern Province in Sri Lanka marks the beginning of a new venture in our routine Provincial Administration. We are thankful to our Honourable Prime Minister for clearing up the ministerial Road Block which had been delaying this process for some time. We have stepped out, so to say, to accommodate and co-operate with a Local Authority from outside our national jurisdiction to work with them closely giving an International dimension to the cooperative effort between two localized institutions coming within the purview of two different Countries.

We have come together to collaborate on devolved subjects’ related sectors in post war Northern Province in keeping with the provisions of our Thirteenth Amendment which paved the way for the creation of Provincial Councils identifying sectors falling within the purview of the Provincial Council, Central Government and those concurrently utilized. The sectors we have identified include economic and private sector development, primary education, health, social and cultural matters, cooperatives and local government capacity development initiatives.

I believe our contribution to this transaction beneficial to you would be mainly in the field of social and cultural matters. Your contribution will no doubt concentrate upon economic aspects. Yet investments by you in our Province could bring mutual benefits to both of us.

Let me explain our investment models. Currently the Northern Provincial Council is working on developing three different types of investment models by collaborating with two different types of investor categories viz. private public partnership  and  diaspora investment in collaboration with NPC. We have started on a mega project from a Middle East based investor who will invest in the Wanni on fruit and vegetable cultivation for export markets. Another investment happens to be a Diaspora investment based garment factory which is already operating in our Province. The third model is a US based IT related Diaspora Institute to develop youth, young graduates, school leavers and those in the Government and private sector to acquire greater and contemporary IT skills to contribute towards post war reconstruction and development of our Province.

We are very much committed to the full implementation of The UN Post 2015 Development Agenda consisting of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 indicators, which has been endorsed by our Government. From a Macro standpoint. particularly, the 16th Goal is very much in consonance with our roadmap for war to peace transition envisaged for Northern Province over a 15-year time line. It reads thus-

“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

This is indeed what we are interested in.

Firstly we need to reduce all forms of violence. The fact that 150000 armed men belonging to a continual Army stationed in the Northern Province necessarily lays the foundation for violence. They have taken over our lands, our livelihoods, our businesses, our resources and are a threat to the well being of our War Widows and others.

Secondly we need to promote the rule of law at the national and international level and ensure equal access to justice for all. The continuation of the draconian PTA does not ensure equal access to justice for all. An inclusive society cannot be built upon a counter terrorism mindset and State Security perspective. The administration must have a humane mind set and Peoples’ Security. Peoples/Human Security perspective means Rule of Law at the Local Government, Provincial Level and National Level to ensure human security in this country.

Thirdly we need to develop effective accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. While the Government had been talking about missing persons beings dead or possibly emigrated, the recent findings prove that accountability and transparency are lacking.

Fourthly ensuring responsive inclusive participation and representative decision- making at all levels, has been stressed. Politically our Northern Provincial Council is being undermined by the Central Government at all levels. Projects are decided by the Centre and foisted on us. In short the Provincial Councils are thought of as an aberration that needs to be suffered by the Government.

Fifthly promoting and enforcing non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development is referred to. But discriminatory laws are still in place.

Thus looking from a macro standpoint I need to say that we have to improve ourselves as a country very much. It is vital that the Government of Sri Lanka must be supported by the International Community based on the Principle of Affirmative Action to ensure a level playing field.

Currently a team of Economic Advisors and Northern Provincial Council officials are taking stock of the Investment climate in terms of post war Northern Province requirements bearing in mind UN Global Compact principles and best practices and UN Post 2015 Development Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals. They include public utilities, infrastructures such as water, land availability, human resources, their capacity, the nature and type of post war environment friendly investment opportunities by sectors etc. We are also currently addressing the policy development aspects relating to post war economic and private sector development. We are soon to have a one day workshop headed by University professionals in the related field, to collect and compile the opinions, demands and interests of Investors both local and foreign. We might also have a joint workshop with sector professionals and based on our deliberations we intend preparing a diaspora investment model. Our delay in working out these economic initiatives so far can be traced to administrative road blocks, incapacity of officials and many other allied reasons. Yet we will not cry over spilt milk.

Let me be frank in identifying the issues of investment in our war affected regions, to give you an idea of what we face just now while starting to  peek into a democratic window frame work after 8 January 2015.

Firstly we suffer from inadequate capacities to implement and execute, particularly due to lack of technically qualified personnel and high caliber management officials in the Province.

Secondly lack of basic infrastructural facilities like water supply, electricity, a proper drainage system etc.

Thirdly our inability to create appropriate job opportunities with particular attention to be given to vulnerables including children, widows, women headed families and the disabled. Rehabilitation of ex – combatants too need to be taken note of. We need projects to cater to the unemployed school leavers and unemployed graduates to encourage a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Fourthly in the field of finance we have noticed the South trying to milch the North through their questionable financing methods. The forms for applying for loans for example from Finance Companies mainly having their headquarters in the South, have all been in the English language which most of our people do not understand. They sign these documents not quite familiar with the dangers involved and as soon as they are in arrears the security placed to obtain loan is confiscated and so too all the installments paid until then. This has been the phenomenon from the time the war was over in 2009. We are now trying to regularize by insisting on the forms to be in Tamil and Sinhala and also insisting on a Lawyer being present at the time of signing the Loan document to explain the contract to the borrowers. Thus our institutional and individual capacities need development.

Fifthly our marketing facilities need to be identified, developed and enhanced.

Also we need to introduce new technology and upgrade our skills and knowledge. I have proposed that our Universities and others must research on the construction of low cost houses which need to be built with local materials to deal with our housing shortages.

The production sector too is in need of adequate inputs to make it more viable and efficient.

We are also looking into the question of simplifying our procedures both at the level of local authorities and licensing authorities to set up one stop centralized institutions to look into all aspects of investments to make it easier for the Investors.

Possible areas of industrial investments might next be examined.

We have a Glass Factory at Neerveli which has now been abandoned. With sufficient inputs it might be made viable to meet modern requirements.

The Aluminum factory in Achchelu too could be resuscitated with technical inputs if feasible.

We have skilled artisans who can compete with the Navy in constructing boats at Karainagar and fishing nets at Gurunagar. With the adoption of appropriate modern technology and best, management practices a venture could be established.

So too the Ice Factory at Katkovalam in Mannar which needs filip from investors.

The Yarlco (a network of cooperative societies) though it is involved in milk processing, it lacks the governance capacity to compete with large companies coming from the South. Co-operation in this regard with foreign investment sources could go a long way in utilizing the Milk produced in the Northern Province productively and profitably. Cooperative ventures need to be studied and helped to bring about economic resuscitation at the grassroot level.

Productively another area which is very profitable is the development of Shrimp culture which is now carried out in a limited scale at Vallai and in Mullaithivu. Though initial investments in such businesses could be ,high they bring good income in the long run. Of course we are careful in setting up norms and conditions to prevent environmental degradation as what happened in the Puttalam district some time ago. Avarice can be perilious.

The Cement Factory has been the subject of many inquiries from local and foreign investors. The Board of Ministers in consultation with our officers both technical and environmental have come to the conclusion that we should reestablish only the grinding site, bringing clinker from other countries such as Indonesia and involve ourselves in packing like the Mitsui Factory in the East. Cement factory could generate employment and would per force improve the Harbour facilities nearby.

The Fish canning factories in Mannar need improvement and injection of capital to modernize to cater to emerging market needs.

We are identifying areas for setting up clean environment zones which will create Beach – side recreational facilities and also promote sale of traditional industries such as Palmyrah products. Its our desire to develop the export value of our Palmyrah products ensuring value added quality enhancement.

Cassurina Beach and Valalai are presently being looked into by our Tourist Promotion Unit for further development.

Currently, we have identified two areas in our Province in cooperation with the Central Government for the establishment of Economic Zones in line with the concept of the existing successful facility in Dambulla.

We have as a Board of Ministers decided to allow Small and Medium Enterprises to flourish in the Northern Province rather than allow large factories and dubious industrialization. Ours is an agrarian and fisheries based society. Industries should centre around these sectors. We have given importance to Tourism but we are not interested in haphazard hotel and recreational investments which will spoil our environment and jeopardize our Cultural ambience. We would insist that our investors do take their skilled and unskilled labour from our local population rather then bring them from outside. Where necessary the Investors must adequately train their Labour. This would not apply to the Management level officials.

We intend having strict controls on the selection of industrial sites. Only last week we came across an investor who got permission to start a business in one area but preferred to shift his area of operation a few kilometers to the South on the A32 highway without informing us. We have stopped his operations and now he would be called upon to apply afresh with regard to the earlier land even, since his contract has lapsed.

We have lots of difficulty from the presence of the Army and Navy on our lands. They have taken over swathes of land both inland and on the sea shore putting those areas to income generating businesses depriving our people of their lands and income.

There is a wrong perception among the Military that lands captured from the Tamil Militants belong to them. I have questioned the soundness of their argument. The war was not with a foreign country. While the war was going on the writ of the Central Government did extend into the areas of war in that Government and Provincial officials continued their official functions. Hence the Military has only put out an insurrection and therefore they must return to their barracks after attending to the insurrection. Somehow large tracts of land are still in the hands of the Military. In order to improve Tourism related businesses, the Military is a stumbling block. They are themselves running hotels and restaurants like Talsevana and they are occupying areas of Tourist value.

We are negotiating these matters but the progress is slow. Nevertheless, we could identify potential areas of operation and persuade the Armed forces to hand over those areas.

I hope our new High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Great Briton would help us in this regard. Her presence today gladdens our hearts!

We are looking forward to areas of collaboration between the Borough of Kingston and our Provincial Council. I have instructed my Strategic Adviser to bring together our Economic Advisers with your officials and work out the details.

Since the Twinning program is a pioneering initiative, we are keen to develop an effective business model which could be replicated in other developed countries where significant diaspora populations exist.

I am looking forward to a mutually beneficial and a healthy collaborative effort based on the principles of partnership which will bring sunshine into the lives of many in our war ravaged Province.

Let us not forget even though Sri Lanka is a middle income Country, the Northern Province is below par and needs fillip to raise its standards. With the help of our Government and your largesse and technical know-how, this should be possible within a short period of time.

I very much look forward to the growth of British and Diaspora investments soon in our areas.