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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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Rekindling the past

The tumultuous reception accorded to President Mahinda Rajapaksa by the people of Jaffna is indeed unprecedented for a leader of the South in recent memory. Those that come closest to any comparison is the warm welcomes that greeted Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and that accorded to Presidential candidate Hector Kobbekaduwa in 1982.

There was a reason for this. The Jaffna farmers immensely benefitted by the agriculture policies of the United Front Government which ensured good prices for their crops such as chilies and onions. Fittingly Kobbekaduwa was presented with a garland made of chilies during his visit to the North during his election campaign.

By extension the people of the North in general always favoured the SLFP over the more cosmopolitan UNP which was deemed to be more minority friendly. As a result of the policies of the SLFP that redounded to the benefit of the Jaffna farmer, though branded as a hardline Sinhala Buddhist entity, the party always did well at the hustings in the North as seen by the victories notched by Kobbekaduwa in 1982 even outstripping Tamil Congress candidate Kumar Ponnambalam in many Northern constituencies.

Needless to say that with the exit of the SLFP Government in 1977 and the introduction of the free market policies by the UNP that replaced it one of the worst hit segments was the Jaffna farmer which was reflected in the 1982 Presidential vote. Also with the demand for separatism gathering momentum in the late seventies and the emergence of Tamil militancy culminating in the shameless episode of Black July the entire climate underwent a transformation changing the equation that earlier prevailed.

The people of the North became estranged not only with the Government of the day but also against the entire Sinhala polity in general obscuring the special relationship they had with the left of centre SLFP Governments. The outbreak of war further distanced the Tamil community from the national mainstream until the North became a de-facto separate State.

It is in this context that the visit by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to celebrate the Thai Pongal festival in the North assumes special significance. The tumultuous ovation he received and the general enthusiasm displayed by the Jaffna populous no doubt would have rekindled the past in the mind of the President who was a member of that Government who won the hearts and minds of the Northern Community by catering to their special needs.

It is through this means that they could be won back again and no one can deny that the Government is presently catering to all the needs of the people of the North through special projects and programs to provide all the necessary wherewithal and sustenance to these people after their harrowing ordeal for over three decades not only with a view to create the conditions for rapprochement but also to make them live as a dignified people.

Naturally it would be the President's desire to set about building bridges into the hearts and minds of the people of the North as he is currently doing in a physical sense to emulate his leader in that distant era and rekindle the spirit of friendship and trust that marked that special relationship, now that the main obstacle that prevented this from happening is no more. President Rajapaksa no doubt has reinvented the wheel in picking up the pieces of the past and forging them into a lasting relationship based on trust and understanding as did his leader four decades ago.

His tone was conciliatory and filled with promise and expectation that signalled a redefining of the relationship between the two communities. He asked the people to be united as one to win over the challenges, promising them that the nightmare of terrorism would no more revisit to haunt them. He also called on all politicians to work together for a united and prosperous future without promoting ethnic and religious divisions - the bugbear that exacerbated the conflict. The President no doubt is aware what damage this could do to the cohesion of the social fabric and would not leave room for the mistakes of the past to mar and destroy the unity he is striving to build among all communities.

This is not the first high profile visit of the President to the North. His endeavour is to make these visits frequent and carry his message of unity to the people of the North as seen from the underlining themes of his speeches. His call to all to protect and nurture the diverse culture and traditions of this land also speaks of his commitment to pluralism and a break down of the barriers of segregation.

Ivory Coast:

Post election stalemate continues

Colonial legacies and neocolonial strategies threaten African unity:

Ivory Coast is a West African country with a population equal to that of Sri Lanka. It is rich in natural resources. It is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans. Its other exports include petroleum, natural gas, cocoa and palm oil. Its wealth also includes diamonds, manganese, cobalt, gold, iron ore, bauxite, copper, silica sand and hydrel power,

Full Story

The Morning Inspection

On lightness and darkness of being

I’ve heard people say now and then that instead of cursing the darkness one should light a lamp. Makes a lot of sense when you take it metaphorically. There’s little to gain by bitching about ignorance,

Full Story

Oliver Weerasinghe:

First town planner of Sri Lanka

Thirty first death anniversary tomorrow:

Tomorrow, January 20, 2011 marks the 31st death anniversary of Oliver Weerasinghe the first town planner and an architect who at one time was the Sri Lankan Ambassador to United States of America.

Full Story

 

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