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New regime should demonstrate attitudinal change, says Bishop of Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Thursday, 26 March 2015, 23:16 GMT]
Whatever the step the new president of Sri Lanka is taking, seems to be too slow and is beyond the expectations of the affected people in the North and East, the Bishop of Batticaloa Rev. Dr. Joseph Ponniah told TamilNet in an interview this week. The new government should demonstrate that it possesses the ability to take bold steps such as the appointment of non-military governors. What is mostly needed now is an attitudinal change on the part of the Colombo government. Even today, whenever someone raises the issues of the affected people in the North and East, the government leaders in Colombo seem to brush off the critiques as coming from ethno-nationalists. This attitude is one of the main problems, the Bishop of Batticaloa said.



Until there is a change in the attitude on the part of the Sri Lankan government in allowing the international investigations to proceed as being urged by the rights activists on the ground, the chance for a real reconciliation and a just solution is slim, he said.

The SL president Maithiripala Sirisena, who came to power with the votes of Tamil-speaking people, has failed to revoke the notorious ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act’ (PTA). The arrests and harassments under the so-called PTA are still haunting the Tamils, Bishop Ponniah told TamilNet.

The kith and kin of the victims of the enforced disappearances are heavily disappointed by the inaction of the new government in providing answers to their questions on the whereabouts of the missing people, he said.

It seems like the new Sri Lankan president is avoiding to deliver anything tangible to the people in the North-East fearing that he would be losing votes from the majority Sinhalese, the Bishop said.

The leaders who visit the country seem to ignore the Eastern province, he said. While there is a lot to be done in the East in providing housing, livelihood, education and health facilities to the devastated people, very little is being done, he said.

The NGOs, including the Church-run organisations such as the Caritas, are unable to satisfy the needs of the people in the Batticaloa district, he said.

Likewise, the promised housing scheme by India is yet to reach the affected people. Only a few beneficiaries at Pullumalai and Olu-kaamam received such housing on the basis that the recipients should be from all the three communities. The majority of the affected people are still waiting for the promised housing assistance from India, the Bishop complained.

Batticaloa district is one of the most poverty-affected districts in the island, he observed.

When asked to comment on the resolution on Tamil genocide, brought forward in the Northern Provincial Council, the Bishop responded by saying that it was genocide although he couldn't comment on it. The resolution has been brought forward by the affected people who were demanding investigations. He was supportive of investigating their claim, the Bishop said.

There are only a few good politicians among the Tamils at the moment. New leaders should emerge, he said. The diaspora component is an integral part of any future progress of the Tamils in the island, he further said.

 

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