KILINOCHCHI :Tamils from the war-devastated Northern Province received a pre-election bonanza in the form of land cultivation permits and gold jewellry from Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a mammoth function here on Sunday, even as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)-dominated Northern Provincial Council (NPC) boycotted it, crying foul.
Snap Presidential elections are expected to be held in January 2015 and Rajapaksa, who is seeking a third term, is indulging in unbridled populism.
He handed over land permits to 20,000 persons and returned to 2352 women, gold jewelry which they had deposited in the “Tamil Eelam Bank” when the LTTE was running large parts of the Wanni region. More than 100 kg of gold and gold ornaments were recovered from the LTTE’s banks by the Lankan armed forces during Eelam War IV.
While the return of gold to their rightful owners has been welcomed, the NPC run by the TNA, has lambasted the President for giving land permits to 20,000 persons without consulting the elected Northern Provincial Council . In a letter to the President sent on Friday, Northern Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran wondered how, and what basis, the beneficiaries were chosen. He also wondered if some of them were outsiders thus throwing a dark hint that some of them could be Sinhalese injected to change the ethnic composition of the predominantly Tamil Northern Province.
In Northern districts other than Jaffna, 90 percent of the land is Central government-owned, and famers are given renewable “permits” to cultivate specific plots for specific periods. While the NPC wants powers over land devolved, as part of the post-war reconciliation process, the Centre is determined to hold on to the powers for the influence they give.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran complained that the Tamil-speaking people of the Northern and Eastern Provinces are being “marginalized” in decision making and execution of development and welfare programs of the Centre.
He dubbed these unilaterally determined and executed programs as being politically motivated and declared that he and his colleagues in the NPC will boycott all “politically motivated” functions including the District Development Council’s meeting in Jaffna on October 13 which is to be presided over by Rajapaksa.