SAfrican initiative to complement Geneva, Indian processes

Friday, 11 July 2014 01:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Ramaphosa tells Wigneswaran SA reconciliation efforts will not be separate exercise
  • Northern Chief Minister says biggest problem in north is militarisation
  • Says development drive has not touched the people
  • Land powers: NPC tells SA Envoy Govt. can’t pick which parts of Constitution to implement
By Dharisha Bastians The South African initiatives to assist reconciliation in Sri Lanka will complement processes unfolding at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and bilaterally with India and other international partners, Pretoria’s Special Envoy Cyril Ramaphosa observed during his visit to Jaffna this week. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran told the Daily FT that he had asked Deputy President Ramaphosa if South Africa’s reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka were a separate exercise from the Indian initiatives, the UNHRC resolutions in Geneva and attempts by other Western countries to resolve the issue. “He assured us that it was a complementary exercise,” the Chief Minister noted, following the meeting with Ramaphosa at the Tilco Hotel in Jaffna on Tuesday. Wigneswaran said that the South African Envoy had explained that the Sri Lankan Government had invited the ANC to share their experiences with Sri Lanka after the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo last year. The Northern Province Chief Minister, who traced the history of the Tamil problem for the South African official, explained that the biggest problem facing the Northern and Eastern Provinces at present was the heavy military presence in the regions. “I explained that the problem was that the Government had stationed the very same Army – about 150,000 troops – that had bombed, shot, terrorised and fought the war in the north in the areas of the offensives even five years later,” the Chief Minister told the Daily FT about the meeting. Wigneswaran said he pointed out to the South African Deputy President that the military was involved in every aspect of civilian life in the Northern Province. “They have taken over acres and acres of fertile lands. They bring persons from the south for fishing and often prevent locals fishing. They allow southerners to take away sand, granite and other resources from the Northern Province. They use up precious ground water in certain areas by pumping off wells or tanks into their bowsers. Locals are deprived of water in those areas, especially at a time like this when there is a drought,” Wigneswaran complained. The Chief Minister told the Daily FT that Ramaphosa had asked his delegation whether the Government’s infrastructure development initiatives had not improved the quality of life in the former war zone. Wigneswaran said he had replied in the affirmative, with the caveat that the roads had helped the south more than the north. “They helped the Army to keep quick and effective control over the area. The roads helped the southerners initially to make a triumphal entry into their areas of capture. They helped the southerners to make a quick buck by exploiting the local markets by taking away products at very cheap rates and selling them at tremendous profits,” the Chief Minister told Ramaphosa. He explained to the South African Deputy President that the TNA had won such an overwhelming majority in the north at the September 2013 provincial poll, in spite of heavy intimidation, because “development had never touched the people in a significant manner”. The Chief Minister also explained to the South African Envoy that the Government was appointed ex-military Governors only for the North and East Provinces. “They run a parallel administration,” Wigneswaran said. The issue of land and Police powers for the provinces also came up in the discussions between Wigneswaran and Ramaphosa. The Chief Minister told the Daily FT that the NPC Legal Advisor had explained to the South African Envoy that the Government could not pick and choose which elements of the Constitution it wanted to implement.