Gotabhaya abhors exclusivity for any race anywhere



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by Shamindra Ferdinando


 Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the Northern Province should be opened up for all communities to live in without further delay. That would be of pivotal importance to promote bonding among the people in the post-war era.


The Defence Secretary emphasised that the Sinhalese shouldn’t be deprived of their right to buy land in any part of the country, including the Northern Province comprising the administrative districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya.


The outspoken official said that the Sinhalese and the Muslim public servants too, should be allowed to serve in the Northern Province as well as in the predominantly Tamil areas of the Eastern Province.


Asked whether he would take up the issue with the government, the Defence Secretary said that he had explained the situation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.


Those who had been propagating post-war national reconciliation should promote bonding among people, he said, alleging that as long as the Northern Province remained ‘closed’ to other communities it would continue to be a breeding ground for separatist sentiments.


Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary said that many Tamil speaking people from the Northern and Eastern provinces had moved to Colombo and its suburbs as well as other areas over the years. In spite of the conclusion of the conflict in May, four years ago, they hadn’t been asked to return to their original places of living, he said. Likewise, others should be able to live in any part of the country, he added.


The Defence Secretary said that recently he had had an opportunity to meet a Tamil engineer attached to the RDA and his deputy, also a Tamil speaking official responsible for an ongoing project at a Colombo suburb coming under his purview. If they could work here without any hindrance why couldn’t the people of other ethnicities be given appointments in the Northern region, the Defence Secretary queried.


He recollected the circumstances under which the LTTE had driven the Sinhalese and the Muslims out of the Northern Province. A Norwegian found guilty of slaughtering about 80 men, women and children in 2011 was on record as having said that he was inspired by LTTE project to drive out the Muslims, he noted.


The official emphasised the importance of taking tangible measures to address contentious issues. Although, the LTTE could no longer pose a military challenge, the post-war national reconciliation process was at risk due to the Northern Province having special status, he said. The Defence Secretary insisted that Northern Province shouldn’t be exclusively Tamil and similarly there should not be any exclusively Sinhala or Muslim areas in the country.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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