Democratic governance, land rights and demilitarisation will be key priority issues for the new government of Sri Lanka's Tamil-dominated Northern Province, said its Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, on Friday. Mr Wigneswarn was addressing the first inaugural session of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) since the end of the military operation against Tamil separatist organisation, the LTTE. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won the recent NPC polls with an impressive 30 out of 38 seats.
Expressing hope that the central government of Sri Lanka will cooperate with the newly-elected Council of the Northern Province, Mr Wigneswaran, said the NPC was ready to extend a hand of friendship.
In his address, that his colleague termed "a powerful speech," the Chief Minister urged the central government in Colombo to confine the military to its barracks.
He said the government much ensure that the army does not take over private land in the north for its use.
"It is important to draw a time-frame for the military to return the land taken over in such a manner to the rightful owners," the Chief Minister said.
Speaking about the NPC election, Mr Wigneswarn pointed out that it was a result of the 13th Constitutional Amendment which followed the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. He, however, said the Amendment was insufficient to meet the needs of the people in the province.
Pointing out that it was worrying to see that the 13th Amendment could not pave way for the independent functioning of the Provincial Council, he said: "It [13th Amendment] is like a vessel with a hole and seems good for nothing," he said.
But he hoped that the Centre will work with the NPC to achieve peace and reconciliation.
Reaching out the Sinhalese majority south region, Mr Wigneswarn said, he sought to reassure that Tamils have rejected the option of creating a separate state - Tamil Eelam, as was propounded by the LTTE.
"We are against any form of violence," he emphasised.
Addressing administrative issues, the Chief Minister said, his government would look at resettling the Muslims who had been forcibly dispossessed of their houses in the north during the conflict. Further, Mr Wigneswarn, called for the appointment of Tamil-speaking policemen in the Northern Province which will make it earlier for them to understand the language, culture and aspirations of the local population.
In his address, the new Chief Minister also called upon the Centre to appoint a civilian to the post of Governor. It may be noted that the present Governor of the Northern Province is an Army Major General.
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