Joint Committee of Indian Origin Organizations proposes
Absorb and merge estate sector into country’s administrative system

By Franklin R. Satyapalan


The three-member Joint Committee of Indian Origin Organizations chaired by former Minister P. P. Devaraj has proposed that the estate sector be absorbed and merged into the country’s administrative system .

This has to be done by the government if justice and fairplay are to be meted out to the plantation people of Indian origin, he stressed.

"During colonial times the administrative arm of the government was kept out of the plantations and services that were provided by the Government Agent were not extended to them. The legacy of the colonial period has continued to straddle the estate sector and the process of exclusion has persisted", he told The Sunday Island

He said that after the government called for suggestions for the establishment of new Divisional Secretariat and Grama Niladhari Divisions to revise existing ones, these proposals were submitted to Additional Secretary (Home Affairs) and Secretary of Delimitation Committee, Mrs. S. K. Weeratunga.

The reforms should be carried out in the districts where the majority of people of Indian origin reside such as Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Matale, Ratnapura, Kegalle, Kalutara and Colombo Municipal Limits, Devaraj said.

The Joint Committee chaired by Devaraj comprises the Managing Director of Express Newspapers Ltd., Kumar Nadesan and businessman Devanayagampillai Eswaran.

The Joint Committee visited the plantation areas over a two and a half month period to travel to meet people of Indian origin, political , trade union representatives, grama niladharis, social service organizations and plantation people at the grassroot level and held deliberations to seek their opinions before the proposals were prepared, the Chairman said.

The Joint Committee is continuing its work at present to the proposed electoral reforms and changes to the Local Authority System and would shortly submit its proposals to the Government, he noted.

Devaraj, a former CWC Vice President, pointed out that for example Nuwara Eliya district had the highest population per Divisional Secretariat and Grama Niladhari Division. The CWC has been suggesting to governments over the past decade that the inadequate number of GN Divisions in plantation areas and that the GN Divisions should also be increased from five to at least 12 so that there could be equality in the GN area populations.

The GN area called Brownwick in the Ambegamuwa Divisional Secretariat Division has a population of 6545 persons and with the various estates where these people live situated a distance away from one another , the CWC suggested that the GN Divisions be increased to three.

The Joint Committee has proposed to the government that recognizing people in estate areas need to be incorporated and integrated into the national administrative system. Successive governments have initiated measures for this purpose such as the appointment of Grama Niladharis from within the estate community in Nuwara eliya and Badulla Districts. These measures have made some impact but much more needs to be done.

Steps taken by the Minister of Public Administration W. D.J . Seneviratne on the advise of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to establish new Divisional Secretariat Divisions ,Grama Niladhari divisions and to demarcate existing boundaries are of great importance. Implementation of these changes can greatly help in absorbing and merging the estate sector into the administrative system, Devaraj explained.

There is a constant movement of people to urban areas such as Colombo. This has increased the population in urban areas where the earlier administrative structures to provide services are under great pressure. Therefore adding of new Divisions in such areas has become important, he said.

"As accessibility and easy communication are basic criteria for GN Divisions, it is important that an adequate number of persons from among the community to which service is planned is posted in the relevant institutions".

Representatives of the following organizations gave further clarification and cooperated in this endeavour both in Colombo and at district level: Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) , Democratic Peoples Front (DPF) , Lanka Estates Workers Union (LEWU), Lanka Jathika Estate workers Union (LJEWU ), Malayagar Manavar Vilipagam (MMV) , Colombo Welfare Society Guild (CWSG), Ceylon Plantation Workers Union (CPWU), Ceylon Workers Alliance (CWA) , Ceylon Workers Front (CWF) , Communist Party Sri Lanka (CPSL) and Global Organizations for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) .

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