No Peace Dividend Until the Majority Community Benefits from Northern Development
Posted on November 25th, 2010

By Kumar Moses    

“Gedi siyayak bima heluwath appachchita eka gediyai”

It is a verse from a song from popular singer Visharada Nanda Malini. Translated to English it means, if a hundred coconuts were plucked, the worker gets just one coconut as payment. If this is cruel, consider how cruel the plight of most security forces personnel is. They liberated close to 15,000 square kilometres of land but most of them are without even a square inch of their own land! Altogether there are 250,000 Sri Lanka Defence Forces personnel at present. On top of that, 27,000 sacrificed their lives and 15,000 more have paid with a limb. Over the years many hundreds of thousands have served the nation with distinction and have retired. We are talking about a number close to half a million here. This absurdity of depriving land to the real owners must end forthwith. All security forces personnel must be allocated land from where it is available. Similarly, other landless people should also be given land. Unless that happens, there will be no peace dividend and most people will live under worse conditions than during the war. Flooding the country with gamblers, cheaper tourists to jack up numbers and foreign loans in billions of dollars by the name peace is a tragedy in the absence of sizable benefits to most.

Parliamentarian Nimal Siripala De Silva recently revealed that 25% of the capital expenditure is spent on north and east where only 13% of the population lives. Spending more in war devastated north and east is acceptable. What is not acceptable is disproportionate and discriminate development in the north favouring only Tamils. Any development of the Jaffna, Mannar, Mulaitivu, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa only benefits Tamils. Unfortunately most development monies are spent in these districts. In order to benefit all, these districts should be turned to multiethnic communities. If that happens, it justifies spending a disproportionate percentage in the north and the east. Even after “investing” a disproportionately large amount of money on Tamil only occupied areas in the north, there will not be corresponding political support for the government. Come the next election, more than 90% of the northern voters will vote for racist political parties (e.g. Tamil Congress, Tamil Kachchi, Tamil Front, Tamil Alliance, etc.) that do absolutely no development work. The absurdity of continuously wasting a colossal amount of money for the sole benefit of a single race will become evident at the Northern Provincial Council election. That is if the government holds it. It has been postponed for more than one and a half years since the end of the war. 

In addition, US$1.7 billion is spent every year to maintain peace. Once again threat to peace comes from Tamil separatists in the north and some of their relatives in the Tamil Diaspora. People of all communities must benefit from this massive investment.

There is very little scope for expansion of land utilization outside the north and the east. At present over 87% of the population lives outside the north and the east which is only 65% of the land area. Any real expansion can take place in the north and the east, especially in the north. However, due to racist claims of “Sinhala colonization” moves to utilize land in the north has been obstructed. The economy of the Jaffna district is worth US$ 2 billion a year but sadly it is almost entirely enjoyed by Tamils only without allowing others any share. Jaffna district has much better health care facilities, telecommunication, banking, education and public administration infrastructure than most districts. There is huge vacant land that can be productively occupied by poor people from other areas. At one point close to 1.5 million people were sustained by the Jaffna district. Today there is room for over 800,000 more people due to mass emigration out of the district plummeting its population. Government should take immediate steps to settle people of all races in these vacant areas. The infrastructure is already there! Without utilizing what was won through immense sacrifices especially by the Sinhalese and Muslims, there will not be any peace dividend.

After a few years people will demand where the peace dividend is and the government will not have anything to show. Income from increased arrival of tourists and gamblers is not flowing to the common man. Profits from Foreign Direct Investments always go back to foreign nations. Apart from employing a few thousands, FDIs will not benefit the millions as these entities are tax exempt too. Government will rely on its excessive investments in the Tamil only north to show any peace dividend. However, only Tamils in the north would have benefited from it and they have always voted for racist political parties. In other words the government will lose both the north and the south. If people are settled in hundreds of thousands in abundant land with opportunities in the north, then the government will surely win both the south and the north.

Tamil-only development in the north has a much worse outcome. It fuels calls for Tamil self-determination so that they can continue to remain the sole beneficiaries of Tamil-only development in the north. These multiple evils can be overcome by devising a method to directly benefit people of all races from disproportionately large investments in the north. Failing that, the political future of the ruling party, the ruling clan and the entire nationalist political movement will be at stake. Reminding the war victory over and over again has no appeal from the people. People need to see tangible benefits in their economic situation and more affordability. The aim of increasing per capita income to US$4,000 in another six years cannot be achieved if 87% of the population has to be satisfied with the opportunities and resources of just 65% of the island. Even if the target is achieved, it will be the arithmetic average of huge income disparities where most will continue to live in poverty.

Amidst these tragic trends, there are a few good in government policy too. The budget proposal to grant rupees 100,000 to every third child of security forces personnel is a very good initiative. This should be extended to every subsequent child of Rana Viru families for it to be really meaningful. And of course their future should be guaranteed by making land available to them by busting petty racist land claims by a few.

If anyone cannot live in a multiethnic society, he should take the first flight out of the country or he should be forced to suffer continuing humiliation. It is time to recognize racist homeland claims as a crime and a sin.  

5 Responses to “No Peace Dividend Until the Majority Community Benefits from Northern Development”

  1. Nanda Says:

    I fully agree. Liberation will only be completed when every village and town in the country look similar.

  2. nilwala Says:

    Absolutely…this recent re-emergence of reference to the “Tamil homelands” has to be totally rejected. This call is being used by those whose commitment to Sri Lanka is clearly ‘mala fide’. Sri Lanka is the home to all of its peoples who should be able to live wheresoever they choose, with no ethnic territories that can again lead to more constructed claims of special rights for Tamils different to those of Sri Lanka’s other citizens.

  3. anura seneviratna Says:

    Thanks Kumar excellent article. Looking after the Defence Forces Personnel is the first line of duty.Flooding the country with gamblers and tourists and ONLY mega projects will not serve the major citizenry either. This must be the only country where its Indigenous Nation of People are being discriminated in favouring the settler minorities by granting them alien-national rights, in doing so they are treated as separate entities. Hence, the non indigenous minorities, instead of being INCLUSIVE citizens of one nation they are attempting to claim separate nationhoods.

    All ills of our country stem from decades of anti-national conditioning of the Hela/Sinhela Nation by most of the past pseudo-national rulers, we are addicted to a mistaken concept of Nationhood. The national ownership of any country belongs to ONE NATION and we are even afraid to say that this Island belongs to the Hela Nation. It is the impact of negative psychological conditioning we suffered. Until we emerge from this darkness, this one minority who already have a country of their national origin in Tamil Nadu will continue their nuisance demand of a Tamil homeland within Heladiva too. We must be the only nation who identify ourselves as an ethnic community in our own national motherland. Do the nations of French, German, Japanese, Thai so on refer to themselves as ethnic communities, in spite of non indigenous settler minorities settled in their countries? This ongoing EXTREME tolerance to non indigenous minorities by our leaders as well as some citizens will NEVER allow us to raise our head as a free Nation of People.

  4. Kit Athul Says:

    Kumar, you brought out an issue no one cared about. Landless and disabled soldiers. NO TAMIL REHABILITATED TERRORISTS should be given land to build houses paid by INDIANs, until the disabled soldiers are given land and a house. Rehabed terrorists must stay in camps and monitored for at least 3 to 4 years as a punishment. They must not be allowed to vote for at least five years. Rehabilitation must not be to satisfy Tamil Nadu Tamils. We must tell HARI KRISHNA this resettlement is an internal Sri Lanken government exercise and no forign country should interfer, not even the United Nations. Why is this Roa woman coming to Sri Lanka so many times? Why can’t Sri Lanken news media question her? Late Anura Bandaranayake got rid of her as the High Commissioner.

  5. mjaya Says:

    The one and only political solution for lasting peace is to integrate minorities into mainstream society. One way is to foster economic development in the whole island. The other is to make sure all citizens in Sri Lanka learn Sinhalese as a common language. We must make sure that segregation of minorities is a thing of the past.

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