UN Spokesman for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric, said the United Nations was exploring the provision of a broad package of technical and financial assistance to the Northern Province at the request of the Chief Minister of the Northern Province C V Wigneswaran.
He said, “We’re exploring provision of a broad package of technical and financial assistance at the request of the Chief Minister, also including the support of the Northern Province to bolster citizen confidence in the peace process.”
External assistance to any province must come through the government of Sri Lanka, and it is incumbent on all provincial chief ministers and provincial councils to work with the Sri Lankan Government
It is not very clear whether this assistance package is to the Sri Lankan Government, but to be specifically directed to the Northern Province, or whether it is a package directly addressed to the Northern Province, and whether the Sri Lankan Government is being considered one amongst many ‘stakeholders’.
It would be very disturbing development if the sovereign government of Sri Lanka has been relegated to the status of just a ‘stakeholder’.
While no one would wish to deny any assistance being granted to those affected by the war, whether it is in the Northern Province or any other province, Sri Lanka should seriously question the UN intention where, according to the UN spokesperson himself, this request for assistance has come directly from the Chief Minister of a province in Sri Lanka, and where it is not clear whether it has come either directly from the Sri Lankan Government, or the request has been sent via the Sri Lankan Government with its endorsement of the request.
The standard protocol should have been for the Northern Province Chief Minister to have made a request to the Central Government, and the request discussed and approved by the Cabinet of Sri Lanka, and sanctioned by the President of the country.
Such a procedure would have been keeping with the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, unless this request may have been made with the sanction of the Prime Minister and/or the President, with everyone else kept in the dark about such a request.
The welfare of those who suffered during the war and prior to that, during 30 years of terrorism, is paramount. However, if the UN or any other international agency or a foreign government is permitted to engage directly with a province, it is tantamount to the recognition that a particular province is an autonomous State within Sri Lanka.
The President and the Prime Minister must explain to the people of Sri Lanka whether this request for assistance made by the Chief Minister of the Northern Province has been made with their knowledge and concurrence or whether they, as much as the rest of the country is in the dark about this. If such precedents are permitted, it will not be long before a military contingent from the UN or a foreign country lands in the Northern Province at the request of the Chief Minister, and helps in the creation of a separate State in the North.
External assistance to any province must come through the government of Sri Lanka, and it is incumbent on all provincial chief ministers and provincial councils to work with the Sri Lankan Government to formulate such requests jointly, and work in partnership, to address any urgent issues impacting on the people in particular geographic areas.