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13 minus Sampur

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( October 9, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The first foreign representative the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council, C.V. Wigneswaran, met after he was sworn-in was Salman Khurshid, the Minister of External Affairs of India. He has come to Sri Lanka to assess the situation, ahead of the final decision on Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh's participation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka next month.

Although the Sri Lankan Government held a free and fair election to elect members to the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) as it had promised India, the recent Supreme Court verdict on the devolution of land powers has shocked the mighty neighbour. It is considered as the reason that compelled Premier Singh to say in New York that he expected the Sri Lankan Government to devolve powers to the Northern Province as granted by the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The Indian External Affairs Minister's visit appears to be a move at obtaining a guarantee from its counterpart in Sri Lanka in this regard. The official statement on the participation of the Indian PM in the CHOGM would remain pending until then.

It is clear that the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is offering '13 minus Sampur' to India. Rajapaksa's strategy was to hold the Provincial Council election in the Northern Province, granting a win to India and achieving an economic victory to Sri Lanka by getting the Sampur Power Project approved by India.

People have pinned their hopes

The people in the North have pinned their hopes on the five-sixth power they bestowed to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). India's diplomacy was the reality behind the massive victory of the TNA. No election would have been possible in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, if not for India's diplomatic manoeuvres.

Yet, if India aims to achieve economic benefits through the victory they bequeathed to the Tamils of Sri Lanka, she is terribly mistaken.

India, who facilitated the militant uprising of the Tamil youth of the North, later forced them to terminate the war, accepting the Provincial Councils as an alternative victory. The Tamil youth launched a war, hopeful that India would help them to build a separate Eelam State. India pushed them to accept the Provincial Councils while securing the oil tank farms in Trincomalee from her traditional enemies, in return. India's achievement was founded on the river of blood that the Tamil youth allowed to flow.

The Tamils brought the TNA into power with a five-sixth majority not because they wanted India to take over the Sampur project or because the Sri Lanka Government signed the India-Sri Lanka Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The Tamils yearn more for socio-economic freedom than economic benefits. No wonder their first aspiration is land powers.

Playing with fire

India misreading this mandate is like playing with fire. Apparently, India is pressing Wigneswaran to prevail upon the Northern Provincial Council to cooperate with the Central Government. Although it cannot be articulated as a wrong strategy, Wigneswaran faces the risk of appearing as a traitor before his people if this phenomenon continues, and the Tamil polity begins to think their mandate was disgraced. Tamils may have already lost their pride as Wigneswaran changed his earlier stance where he insisted that the President needed to come to Jaffna for his swearing-in, and instead agreed to take the oath in Colombo before the President.

During the election campaigns, President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted to show that Wigneswaran could be flexed because of his relationship to the family of Vasudeva Nanayakkara. The government will drum up all forces to break the backbone of the TNA triumph in the North by creating division between Chief Minister Wigneswaran, TNA hardliners and the Tamil polity.

The election victory in the Northern Province may be a dead duck if India allows this to happen for the mere sake of its economic interests.
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