COLOMBO: The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil majority Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, on Tuesday outlined the economic goals of his largely rural province and set the parameters within which economic development projects should be conceived.
Addressing a conference of international donor agencies, organized by R.Paskaralingam, Adviser to the Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation, Wigneswaran said that first and foremost, any plans for the economic development of his province will have to be discussed with first with his administration and should be based on a scientific survey of the province’s resources and felt-needs.
He observed that due to the 30 year war, officials in the provincial administration have acquired the habit of following the diktats and decisions of the Central government without bothering to give their own inputs based on local experience. It is time they learnt to operate in an era of democracy in which there is an elected government in the province, he said. The Chief Minister pointed out that officials even manipulate surveys to suit the wishes of the Central government. In a survey of war widows, officials told the widows not to say that their husbands had died due to the war but of some natural cause.
The Chief Minister made it very clear that the provincial administration would not welcome large, capital intensive, projects in which the locals will only be hewers of wood and drawers of water.”We will not allow outsiders to rule over us and will not allow our resources to be looted,” he said.
The most appropriate plan for his province will be to encourage small and medium scale industries making use of locally available material and involving local people organized in cooperatives, Wgneswarn said.
Since most people are engaged in agriculture and fishing in the province, stress should be on these two sectors. Since the educated youth of the North are showing an interest in computer science and communication technology, “back offices” could be created to engage these youth.
Wigneswaran further said that since one of the aims of the development process is to effect national reconciliation, in the backdrop of three decades of war, efforts should be made to implement the joint US-Sri Lanka resolution of the UN Human Rights Council passed last year which called for the setting up of credible mechanisms to ensure accountability.
If the government takes the steps outlined by him, the Northern Province would extend its fullest cooperation to the Central government’s projects, Wigneswaran assured.
Significantly, Wigneswaran had boycotted the inauguration of the International Investment Forum in Jaffna organized by the provincial Governor, Reginold Cooray, on the grounds that the forum was planned without consulting him or his administration or even doing a proper survey of the felt-needs of the people of the province.