VIDEO: Govt hoping to buy Tamil vote by improving living standards - Nirj Deva

VIDEO: Govt hoping to buy Tamil vote by improving living standards - Nirj Deva

July 20, 2013   04:57 pm

The Sri Lankan government is hoping that by working very hard and expending vast resources to improve the living standards of the people in the North and East that they will get away with the problem of sharing political power, says a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Sri Lankan-born Niranjan Devaadithya, also known as Nirj Deva, stated that government hopes they can “buy” the affection and the goodwill and the electoral vote of the Tamil people by improving their living standards.

It is a strategy and it might work, he told Ada Derana, in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the visit by the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia.

However, Devaadithya conceded that he does not know how much the bitterness and depth of feeling about not having representation is and that to him the Tamil people in the country are equal to everybody else.

“So to me this is not an issue, but if I was living in the North I don’t know how you feel,” he said.   

He stated that this raises another question of whether the ordinary Tamil people living in the North and East really care about who is making the decisions and whether it is a small number of elites in the North who are making this great point whereas the vast majority of people in the North want to have a good home, good education for their children, food in their stomachs and equality of opportunity.

“It could be a breakdown in this political structure,” he pointed out.    

The government of Sri Lanka, having won the fight against terrorism, has spent an enormous amount of money reconstructing the North and the East, the politician from the United Kingdom said.

It is a strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil and Muslim people in the North, to the concerns the government has to increase their welfare, he said.

“But I think the government also needs to understand that they can increase the welfare and spend money but they will not necessarily get the support of the Tamil people wholeheartedly unless they recognize that the Tamil people themselves have had a sense of grievance that there emotional, cultural and political needs have not been fully appreciated in the South,” the MEP said.   

“It’s not an ethnic issue. It’s an issue more of displacement, of not having a substantial voice,” he opined. 

He stated that the government also needs to recognize that the Tamils and Muslim people in the North must have some area of self-control in their own little area of land in a “unitary state”.

Mr Devaadithya said he believes the problem will go away if Sri Lanka can come up with a solution like having a Senate, with a two-chamber assembly where the representations of the minorities can be more representative in the second chamber, or a similar construction. 

He also stated that these concerns about the 13th Amendment, about land and police powers are legitimate concerns. “Because I have seen what’s happened in Scotland.”

A member of the Conservative Party, Nirj Deva has been a Member of the European Parliament representing South East England since 1999.

He was previously a Member of Parliament (MP) in the British House of Commons from 1992 to 1997, representing the constituency of Brentford and Isleworth.

He stressed that there are great dangers in shifting powers, which should be done carefully, and that in a small country like Sri Lanka it’s far better to pool political authority in the center and share it in the center.

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