Northern Province Chief Minister
C V Vigneswaran has renewed the call for amalgamation of the northern and Eastern Provinces, a move that has been vehemently opposed by many as a first step towards separation. Perhaps, he may have done that as an easy way of gaining some political mileage.
Such a call would have been acceptable at least as a political stunt a few decades ago. The situation and the mood of the people in the country have changed quite a lot since then. Once amalgamated north east was separated following a decision of the country’s highest court of which Vigneswaran himself was once a judge.
Especially at a time when a terrorist group that was responsible for nearly separating the country has been militarily wiped out, a call for any action that is likely to lead to separatism on ethnic grounds is bound to be severely resisted by the majority of the country’s population.
Country is divided enough by way of language, religion, race, caste and politics. The need of the hour is not to further divide it, but to accelerate economic and social development in a way that the benefits are evenly distributed among all the regions.
Most of the development projects that are capable of turning around the country can only be undertaken at the central government level. Sri Lanka being relatively a small island, it is not practical for anyone to think that that kind of development can be achieved individually by the provinces.
Now that the provincial councils are a part of our constitution, we need to put them to some good use but it is hard to believe that the targeted development levels can be achieved by further devolution or merging of provinces.
The other important thing to note is that this is the time some genuine efforts are being taken to find a lasting solution to the ethnic issue and to build unity and peace among the different communities living in our country. Asking for things which will hinge on the borderline of separation will only jeopardize that effort giving more leverage to extremists in the south who are waiting to make political capital out of the racist issues.
On the other hand, ethnic constitution of the Eastern Province is such that if we have a referendum there, a great majority of the population will oppose any merger with the north. Vigneswaran should understand that this type of proposal will only complicate matters even delaying the genuine efforts that are currently being made to find a lasting constitutional solution to the northern issue.