Leading members of Sri Lanka’s Tamil civil society have urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to persuade Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe to hold provincial elections in the island’s north and east so that people in the region get an “approachable administration”.
In an open letter to Modi ahead of this week’s visit to New Delhi by Wickremesinghe, handed over on Monday (July 17) to the Indian Consulate in Jaffna, scores of signatories have thanked India for giving “immense support” to Sri Lanka during its unprecedented economic crisis.
They have also expressed gratefulness for all the help New Delhi has provided to rebuild infrastructure in the war-battered north and east as well as other connectivity projects.
These include the Jaffna-Colombo railway network, flights between Palaly in northern Sri Lanka and Chennai as well as a proposed Tamil Nadu-Jaffna ferry service.
“These projects along with the many intended investment programmes will certainly help to regenerate the stagnant economy of Tamil provinces and generate desperately needed employment opportunities,” the letter said.
The signatories pointed out that although 14 long years have passed since the war ended in Sri Lanka, “the social and economic conditions of our people have not progressed as expected”.
“In addition to the hardships all Sri Lankan people are facing due to the bad management of the economy, Tamil people are facing additional difficulties,” the letter said.
Sri Lanka’s northeast
It underlined the falling educational standards in Sri Lanka’s northeast, a region which has always been proud of its quality education, and the poor state of agriculture “mainly due to the occupation of fertile lands in Tamil provinces under various pretexts”.
“The vast majority of the people and many leading members of various civil society organisations feel there is a need for an approachable Tamil administration at provincial level to plan and manage all sectors efficiently.
“At present, this is only feasible by having an elected provincial government in the northern and eastern provinces.
“We are fully aware that the government of India has been consistently calling for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment (to the Constitution) and to have functioning provincial councils in the Tamil provinces.
“We earnestly appeal to you to reiterate that position and use this opportunity to persuade the visiting president Ranil Wickremesinghe to call for an early provincial council election,” the letter said.
The letter moaned that it was unfortunate that “our Tamil political leadership is disunited and merely for political reasons advocating federalism without having any meaningful working programme to achieve it.”
“However, a majority of the people desperately need a Tamil administration at provincial level,” it said, referring to the need for a local administration to run the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, the former war theatre.
The letter has been signed by among others Sri Gnanasampantha Paramachariya Swamigal of Nallur Atheenam in Jaffna, Batticaloa Bishop Joseph Rassiah, Jaffna Vicar General PJ Jebaratnam, Jaffna University Chancellor Professor S Pathmanathan, former Eastern University Vice Chancellor K Premakumar, Kosalai Mathan of Jaffna University, A Jathindra of the Centre for Strategic Studies Trincomalee, Jaffna Chamber of Commerce President R Jeyasegaram and S Laleesan, principal of the Kopay Teachers College in Jaffna.
The Federal News