Northern Provincial Council – A Boiling Pot

by Thambu Kanagasabai, Toronto, June 27, 2017

Northern Provincial Council is [NPC] a creation under the Indo-Ceylon Accord of 1987 and the 13th Amendment to the constitution, all of which are of Indian and Sri Lankan Government’s making without the backing  and endorsement of the large majority of Tamils and the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  NPC has legislative powers over various matters including agriculture, education, health, housing, local government, planning, road transport and social services. Police and land powers assigned to the NPC are not devolved by the successive Sri Lankan Governments who have simply refused to do so, fearing that it will lead to separation, which is just paranoid only.  With Central Government enjoying powers through a Governor and Parliament to dismiss or dissolve a rebelling Provincial Council, there is no justification to deny this devolution which only amounts to make it a limping Provincial Council tied up with the Centre.

The earlier merged Northern and Eastern Provincial [Northeastern Province] Council due to the proclamation of President J.R. Jayawardene in September 1988 following the 13th Amendment was nullified in October 2006 by the Supreme Court headed by Sarath de Silva appointed by former President Chandrika Kumarathuge favouring the Jathika Vimukthi Perumuna [JVP] party’s demand for demerger of these provinces.  The Northeastern Province was de-merged on technical grounds.

From 1st January 2007, Northern Provincial Council was ruled directly from Colombo until 21st September 2013 when elections were held.  A total of thirty eight members [38] were elected using the open list proportional representation system, of these 38 members 30 were elected in TNA ticket, with seven from United People Liberation Front and one from Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.  Out of the 30 TNA members, fifteen [15] belonged to the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi [ITAK]  Justice C. V. Wigneswaran, who received more than one hundred thousand votes and topped the list, became the Chief Minister of  NPC on October 07, 2013, with C.V.K. Sivagnanam as the Chairman of the NPC from October 25, 2013.  A Governor is appointed by the centre as an arm of executive.

NPC has a Provincial Council List which allows legislation after consulting the national Government.  This includes archaeological sites, employment, environmental protection, fisheries, higher education, price control and tourism.  The board of ministers consists of the Chief Minister and up to four other ministers. The four ministers appointed were P. Iyngaranesan [ Agriculture] B. Dineswaran [Transport], T. Kurukularajah [Education] and P. Sathiyalingam  [Health]

Politician turned Justice Wigneswaran entered politics as the Chief Minister to rule the Northern Provincial Council with a comfortable majority and his entry was warmly welcomed to usher in an outspoken and unbending Tamil leadership, who could also agitate for the causes of Tamils.  Politics, as said, is an art of the impossible and it is like a football game where one can expect, fouls, injuries, pretences, even deliberate blows, penalties, expulsion etc.

Justice Wigneswaran served as a Judge for more than forty years from magistrate to Supreme Court Judge which position demanded impartiality, and with occasional mingling with the public, interacting in the courts. Sampanthan paved the way for his entry, much to the chagrin of most of the TNA members who resented a fresh and untested person to lead the provincial council, besides harboring a lurking fear and suspicion as to his possible rise and dominance in the politics of Tamils.  Besides, hopes of Mavai Senathirajah to become the Chief Minister were also dashed breeding discontentment with a willy-nilly and grudging inter-relationship.

The track record of NPC is its passing of more than 300 resolutions during this three and a half years period.  The most notable being the GENOCIDE RESOLUTION passed unanimously in February 2015, much to the satisfaction of the Tamils world-wide, which on the other hand drew criticisms from the South.  This Resolution only reflected and put on record the ‘GENOCIDE OF THIS CENTURY’ to the eyes of the world and in the Council.

It is to be mentioned that the Governor Chandrasisi, a military commander was appointed by Mahinda Rajapaksha in 2009 to check and stall any legislations or moves unpalatable to the Government if initiated by the NPC.  The Governor also obliged the Government by obstructing the functioning of NPC with delaying and reviewing tactics, initiating actions without consultation with the CM and Council, etc. The relationship was nothing but souring and acrimonious, with demands from various parties in the North to replace him with a civilian as Governor.  This demand succeeded when Reginald Cooray who served as Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council became the Governor of NPC in February 2016.  Though it was welcomed with relief and satisfaction, Governor Reginald Cooray also failed to develop a smooth and cordial working relationship with the CM and Council.  He has been exercising much of his powers and authority at his discretion without consultations or notice to the CM and Council, like entertaining hosts and arranging functions where CM’s presence is also important, like the Governor’s recent invitation of President Maithiri to his office to meet the delegated women who represented the thousands of disappeared with CM Wigneswaran being kept in the dark.

It is to be noted that the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province Z.A. Nazeer Ahamad has been also making complaints against the governor Austin Fernando for interfering in the day to day functions of the Eastern Provincial Council.  Similarly same behaviour of the Governor of Pondichcheri Territory in India Ms. Kiran Bedi is facing same criticisms for her dominating behaviour and interference with the functions of the Chief Minister Narayanasamy.  This pattern of dominating behaviour on the part of Governors appears to be nothing but attempts to project and promote the superiority of their position to that of the Chief Minister.
Instead of maintaining smooth and working relations with the Chief Ministers to ensure an efficient administration in the interests of the people who elected the Chief Ministers, indulging in egoistic attitude to promote self-image must have to be restrained by the centre with proper limits on the powers of the Governor.
The Governor though appointed by the Government, should refrain from acting as a paid agent to please and favour the centre.

The Northern Provincial Council and its CM  Justice Wigneswaran has been the hot topics and in the limelight during the last few weeks over the reports of a Commission which inquired into allegations of corruption, malpractices, abuse of power etc. against the four Ministers of NPC.  The Commission comprised of Attorney-at-law S. Paramarajah, legal advisor of the NPC C. Varatharajah, and S. Pathmanathan – retired Government Agent with Thiagandran a Retired Judge as the Chairman.

C. Varatharajah earlier appeared for NPC in the case in Mallakam courts over the water pollution allegations in the Chunnakam area. S, Pathmanathan the other member in the Commission, earlier worked as secretary in the NPC’s agriculture ministry as well as planning director.  The Commission investigations took four months and submitted its findings in a report to the CM on May 19th 2017.

The report found two ministers, Iyngaranesan and Kurukularajah guilty based on evidences presented and submitted, and exonerated the other two ministers for lack of evidence to prove the allegations against them, due to the absence of some complainants and witnesses. It also recommended the resignation of the two ministers from their ministerial position [Iyngaranesan and Kuruguklarajah] Iyngaranesan faced 10 accusations and Kurugularajah faced 9, Deniswaran faced 4 and Sathiyalingam faced 5.   The report was submitted to the Council on 14th June and in compliance with the recommendations of the Report, CM in his speech requested the two ministers to submit their resignations within 48 hours and the other two ministers to go on compulsory leave for one month until investigations are completed against them.  It is to be noted that various allegations and complaints against ministers were floating for more than one year.

The belated urgent and immediate actions of Chief Minister caused resentment from the TNA leadership, while generating public support, backing the moves of the CM in carrying out the recommendation. However, the sweeping action against the other two ministers P. Sathiyalingam and B. Deneswaran who are yet to be found guilty of the allegations prompted TNA leader Sampanthan to interfere in the matter.  Sampanthan requested CM Justice Wigneswaran to refrain from taking any steps against those two on the principles of ‘natural justice’ which demands that both parties of the dispute must be heard before passing a determination. Incensed by the move of CM Justice Wigneswaran,  TNA’s one of the alliance party ITAK MPs Sumanthiran and Mavai Senathirajah engineered a no-confidence motion against Justice Wigneswaran for failing to act justly and properly in relation to the two ministers [both from ITAK]

A no-confidence motion with the signatures of 21 members was personally handed over to the Governor at his residence, with Chairman of the NPC C.V.K Sivaganam leading the group. In order to counter this move, another 15 members led by vociferous M. K. Shivajilingam met the Governor at his residence and submitted a memo confirming their support to CM.

With heat generated inside and outside NPC in the North, hectic efforts to diffuse the otherwise easily soluble dispute continued with mediation efforts initiated by MP Siddharthan of PLOTE and Religious leaders from Hindu and Christian faiths. Finally the issue was resolved, but not before the public and students were drawn in thousands into this matter, resulting in clash between leaders trying to test their strength, position, prestige and pride. Even a hartal was launched resulting of loss of income, earnings, disruption of public services and causing inconveniences to the public as a whole.

The dust is now settled, with the resignation of the two ministers and the other two ministers retaining their positions and to continue to serve as ministers, while undertaking to co-operate and not to obstruct the pending investigations.

The conduct of Chairman of NPC C.V.K. Sivaganam leaves much to be desired. By becoming a party to the no-confidence motion, he has exposed his partiality to the CM and Council by taking a side and supporting the no-confidence motion.  As a Chairman, he is expected to stand and behave neutrally in the conduct and proceedings of the House, while having a right to vote for one side in the event the Council is equally divided during a voting. By his conduct, Chairman has only initiated a “no-confidence” against him. Unless proper amends are made to rectify this stand, the council could be heading for continuing disruption, disorder and personal vendetta.

While CM Justice Wigneswaran deserves praise for the bold steps to vindicate justice in relation to the two ministers found guilty, his steps against the other two should have been delayed, which lapse was seized by Mavai Senathirajan and others to initiate the no-confidence motion which should have been avoided as an unnecessary move at this crucial period for Tamils. The whole episode was also gleefully watched by the South while the foreign diplomats out of sympathy for the NPC called for unity and compromise.

It is the wish of all that this sad chapter is buried and gone and never to be repeated. NPC was created to focus on the development of North, to take steps to soothe and redress the day to day difficulties of those sufferings since the war ended in 2009. CM and others should concentrate on forging a close knit Council not allowing it to be used as a forum to settle personal scores or giving room to division and disunity leading to rival factions and even street clashes.

It will be in the best interest of all if CM Justice Wigneswaran displays his qualities as a Justice to right the wrongs and as a politician to harness the backing of all members and focus on the needs of the suffering Tamils in the North. The Council should not be exploited as a forum to bolster and boost self-image or to develop personality cult with an axe to grind at the expense of the public and party unity.

It should not be “we stand united to fall apart”. Instead it has to be “we are always united to stand together’.

A divided NPC and a loosely bonded TNA is not the need of the hour and surely not what the Tamils want and wanted.

CM Justice Wigneswaran who has almost achieved his goal to lead the Tamils after Sampanthan by earning the trust of the people is beholden to ensure that justice is upheld without fear or favour and with transparency leaving no room for doubts, cover ups, settling personal scores or shielding the soft corners.

It is to be noted that allegations of bias and impartiality with a stained record are now made against the Commissioners who conducted the investigations, even attributing ignorance of CM Justice Wigneswaran about their past by a former minister. CM Justice Wigneswaran as a human can err in his decisions, but he is duty bound to avoid any room for criticism.

It is vital for TNA leadership to shoulder the heavy responsibility and focus on the general welfare, political and regional needs of Tamils, rather than frittering their energy and time on matters which should be best left for the NPC to handle.

The spirit of “We will work together as a united front” must be the aim and priority and not “others and I”

It is also not too late for TNA to register as a political party to present a united front and one voice for the cause of the Tamils.

It is better that instead of washing the dirty linen in public, the best option available for aggrieved party is to seek the ruling of the Supreme Court as to the legality and validity of the Commission and its findings.


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No Responses to “Northern Provincial Council – A Boiling Pot”

  1. Kumarathasan Rasingam

    The writer clearly explains the sad events that took place to oust Justice Wigneswaran from the CM’s post. The unpleasant, untimely party rivalry and personal grudges has now shown the ugly faces of those who plotted it. This ugly episode has left the entire Tamil community at home and abroad in a predicament situation.
    This should have been shorted out within the party and this has caused severe blow to the unity of Tamil Community.
    It is a damn shame on those who staged this unpleasant drama and by this they have exposed their real face to the public.

  2. sathya

    What they really need is limited terms for those at the highest levels of public office. I cant understand the logic behind having someone like Jayalalitha for 30 or more years as head of a party. I feel it breeds cronyism and in the long term, a disservice to the people they serve. My views probably reflect a generational perspective but I think ofeveryone as dispensable and given half a chance others can rise to the challenge to reign in a fresh approach. All the Tamil and Sinhala politcians think of such leadership roles as jobs for life.

  3. Tharma Siva

    An outstanding article with facts. Sri Lanka is a failed nation since independence from the British colonial rulers as it failed to uphold rule of law equally to all citizens, apply justice fairly and failed on democratic values and good governance.

    The rise of Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid, racism, violence against minorities and non Buddhists and Buddhist Monks have allegedly involved in racial riots, violence and Buddhist Monks and temples have become protectors of war criminals, human rights abusers and those who committed genocide.

    The failure of International community and Western nations to investigate war crimes, use of chemical weapons, genocide in Sri Lanka and failure to have ground monitors to report crimes against humanity helped Sri Lankan regime forces continue with its ethnic cleansing and war crimes, illegal occupation of Tamils lands.

    Recently a UK Conservative MP Dr. Rachel Joyce has said that UK Colonial rulers have made grave mistake in leaving Tamil Eelam as merged with Sri Lanka and supports separate Tamil Eelam to live in harmony and dignity. Eelam is the only solution that will put an end to Sinhala Buddhist crimes and for Tamils to live with dignity and harmony.