The following chapter from the book FDB by Lakshmi Dias Bandaranaike is reproduced for the bearing it has on Lanka's ethnic problem and as illustrative of the role SLFP led governments have played in ethnic reconciliation and peace.
I have come to Jaffna not only as a representative of the Government but also as a true friend of the Tamils in the North. I have come here not to ask for your votes, or to canvas for the crossover of your politicians to the Government. I have not come here to talk politics either.
The purpose of my visit is to solicit your friendship and co-operation to build a united Sri Lanka where all the people irrespective of the community they belonged to, the language they spoke, or the religion they professed, will be equal and enjoy the same rights.
So said Mr. Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike, Minister of Public Administration, Local Government, Home Affairs & Justice, speaking at a public meeting held at the Open Air Theatre, Jaffna.
He said he agreed with those people who said that the Tamils had several of their problems unsolved. Those problems could be solved if the two major communities established a rapport with each other and discussed their problems with a view to solve them.
By having discussions the longstanding problems, including the langauge question, could be solved easily. By mutual understanding and creating an atmosphere of friendship and goodwill all the problems that confronted both communities could be settled once and for all. Instead of doing this, some politicians in the North were issuing threats on the Government.
He further said a concrete example of solving problems by discussion was the solution that was found to the Indo-Ceylon problems some time back, and recently the settlement reached as regards. The question of the ownership of that tiny island, had now been settled once and for all.
He said he was happy to see some of the Tamil politicians including Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam who once said that Kachativu belonged to South India had now expressed joy and satisfaction as regards the recent agreement.
That agreement was made by the PM not with any political motive, but to help the people of the North, especially the fishermen who used this Island and pilgrims from the North who went there for festivals.
The administration of this island would now come under the purview of the Delft local authorities.
He further said communalism which once bestrode the Southern and Northern parts of Sri Lanka was now on the way out.
The people from both sides of the Elephant Pass had now begun to think as one united nation and as a result communal politicians like Mr. K. M. P. Rajaratne and his counterparts in the North had been pushed to the background.
He was happy to see the people in Jaffna, too, realised that communal politics would not help them to solve their problems.
Referring to the Jaffna farmers, he said the farmers in the North had proved in recent times that they were superior to their counterparts in the South in all respects.
The Jaffna farmers had now become very rich. The farmers down South had not resented it for accused the government of helping the Jaffna farmers. Instead, they had begun to admire the achievements of the Northern farmers. They had also expressed their willingness to learn from the Tamil farmers to increase production.
The Government had been giving all the necessary assistance and encouragement to the Jaffna farmers and would also do so in the future, even though many of them were opposed to the other policies and programmes of the Government.
Referring to the langauge of the courts, the Minister said he had made Tamil the langauge of the Courts in the Tamil areas because he felt it would not be fair if the Tamils were forced to conduct the affairs of the courts in a langauge other than their own.
He further said he found that it was fair and necessary to allow the people who came before the courts expecting justice to be done, to be heard in a langauge that they knew.
Referring to the administration of the Jaffna Municipal Council he said he had not come across a city as clean as Jaffna in recent times. It was mainly due to the untiring efforts and dedicated service of Mr. Alfred Duraiyappah, Mayor of Jaffna.
He further said he wished to remind the people of Jaffna that the first person to vote the necessary funds for a water supply scheme for Jaffna was the late Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.
He did so during the height of the 1958 communal riots. It was due to this action of the late PM, that the people of Jaffna were now able to have their own water supply schemes.
"People have greatly benefited by the new judicial reforms introduced recently. The langauge of the courts is being enforced without causing discrimination to any section of the community," said Mr. Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Minister of Public Administration, Local Government and Home Affairs and Minister of Justice.
Mr. Bandaranaike opened the Law Library at the Public Library hall in Jaffna on Sunday. Mr. Alfred Duraiyappah, Mayor of Jaffna, presided.
Mr. Bandaranaike said he would call a conference of High Court Judges as early as possible to discuss the difficulties in implementing the Langauge of the Courts Act and how to solve problems which may have arisen.
It was the Government's intention to rule without harming any community or causing hardships to the people of any particular region in the country.
After the meeting Mr. Bandaranaike unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Jaffna Mahatma Gandhi Road. It is one of the statues erected by the Jaffna Municipal Council to mark the councils' silver jubilee celebrations which are now on.
The Minister said that the Mahatma did not fight for the independence of India single-handed. The people of Sri Lanka too benefited by the Mahatma's struggle.
This country too was able to come out of the grip of its imperialist rulers because of the Mahatma's struggle and the genuine satyagraha campaign launched against the foreign rulers.
Mr. Bandaranaike also opened the jubilee hall of the Jaffna Municipal Council. It was constructed to commemorate the Council's silver jubilee. Mr. Bandaranaike also visited the Agricultural-Industrial Development Exhibition which is being held to commemorate the council's jubilee.
Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2003 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.
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