Charges against Northern Province Ministers signal shift in Sri Lankan Tamil politics

Charges against Northern Province Ministers signal shift in Sri Lankan Tamil politics

Colombo, June 14: The brewing crisis in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-dominated Northern Province over corruption and inefficiency on the part of two ministers, is a faint but sure sign of a shift in the orientation of Sri Lankan Tamil politics, writes P.K.Balachandran in Daily Express.

For the first time since 2013, when the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) was elected, members of the council are agitated over the performance of the Board of Ministers.

And for the first time, administrative and developmental issues are engaging Tamil politicos, in a significant diversion from an almost exclusive preoccupation with political issues such as accountability for alleged war crimes, tracing the war-time disappeared, and getting lands and prisoners released.

In a marked change, more than 50% of NPC members had complained in writing against the Board of Ministers, especially ,T.Kurukularaja (Education) and P.Ayngaranesan (Agriculture), alleging corruption, manipulation and negligence.

Previously, the performance of the NPC, its Board of Ministers and the Chief Minister, had not been of any concern to the members or the Tamil media for that matter. Only the Leader of Opposition in the council, S.Thavarajah, would speak on performance and suggest ways of making use of the funds made available by the Central government in Colombo. But nobody would lend an ear to him.

P.Ayngaranesan. Photo.Tamilcnn

From September 2013 till very recently, the NPC was content to pass resolutions on the political demands of the Tamils and accusing Colombo of various crimes including genocide.

While other provincial councils were carrying out development  works with the same limited resources made available to them, the NPC and its ministers showed no interest in economic development. They would spurn offers of economic assistance from friendly countries with disdain, saying that a political solution with devolution of power must come first and economic development only later.

With the Tamil media being controlled by politically oriented persons cast in the old “struggle mould”, and a population which is largely and traditionally silent and submissive, the corruption, inefficiency and negligence getting to be rampant in the administration went un-noticed or were brushed under the carpet for the sake of the larger Tamil political cause of maximum autonomy going beyond the 13 th.constitutional amendment of 1987.

But as predicted by some political observers, maladministration and a cavalier attitude to governance cannot be kept under the lid very long as maladministration and neglect tend to grow if there is indifference, and reach a point where they cannot be hidden from public view. The Northern Provincial Council has reached this point.

T.Kurukularaja.Photo.Tamil Diplomat

It was in late 2016 that charges began to be made against the four member Board of Ministers, particularly Kurukularaja and Ayngaranesan. The Education Minister is alleged to have made irregular transfers of teachers and had failed to raise the level of education in the province which is abysmally low. The Agriculture Minister has allegedly indulged in corruption in irrigation works and in power generation. Supporters of the Ministers blamed officials for the bad decisions.

Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran appointed a panel of experts and the panel has reportedly called for the sacking of Kurukularajah and Ayngranesan. Chief  Minister Wigneswaran is reluctant to take action as the ministers have been his supporters. More importantly, they are backed by a radical section of the Tamil National Alliance. However, Wigneswaran proposes to place the panel’s report before the council on June 14, and take a decision on it thereafter.

Needing wise counsel and support, Wigneswaran had approached his rival, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Supremo, R.Sampanthan. But the latter said that it was the Chief Minister’s prerogative to take a decision on the matter as it pertains to his administration.

(The featured image at the top shows Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran with the Tamil National Alliance leader R.Sampanthan)