Gen Chandrasiri, and Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama
By Arun Tambimuttu
I met a number of civil servants in the East, during past week or so. The discourses were very fruitful, and one topic that repeatedly emerged was the governors of provincial councils.
I think it is a matter of public interest that I should put some of the sentiments on record.
Every single official I conversed with praised the services of then Governor Mohan Wijewickrama They believe besides maintaining displine, his administration was always fair towards the officials. Their interests were never infringed upon. They also believe he managed the delicate ethnic composition in the province with utmost care, and won the trust of all communities. A remarkable achievement in an environment where mistrust and disharmony thrives, thanks to politics.
I also met a number of officials who served under Governor Chandrasiri Gammampila in the North. An interesting testimony from one official whose closeness to TNA leadership is such he went personally to Sampanthan to plead not to indulge in political propaganda against the governor. Not because of any personal relationship but simply out public interest. He is of the opinion, without Gen. Chandrasiri’s contributions, the achievements in Northern Province would have been a fraction what was accomplished!
These sentiments should be read in the context of how their appointments were politicised then.
In 2010 when I returned to Sri Lanka, there were constant news headlines about ex-service men being Governors of Northern and Eastern Provinces, these stories were instigated by the TNA and UNP.
Even though it was the prerogative of the President of Sri Lanka to appoint individuals fit for such high office, the TNA, UNP and even some member of the diplomatic community took it upon themselves to criticise President Rajapaksa’s appointment. There were even international headlines claiming military intervention in civilian affairs, and citing two governors as military men!
The reality though, both men were retired from service and for all intents and purposes were civilians! The hypocrisy of both UNP and TNA was that they were supportive of a retired army commander, and he can become a President of the republic but retired military men should not be governors!
If one looks at the United States, there were countless presidents who were ex-service men, even President Carter the darling of liberal America and a renowned peacemaker was a sailor!
The period between 2009-2015 were the most turbulent and crucial period in the North and Eastern Provinces. Soon after the war, broken regions were being fixed. Displaced people were resettled, hospitals, schools and public amenities constructed, and thousands of houses built as never before in history. Even former tigers were rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Roads, bridges and railwaylines were modernised or more precisely rebuilt, making the reunification of the island an absolute reality.
More significantly there were Tamil militant groups that provided significant support to the Armed forces, many of such groups were armed and had a history of extreme violence. These groups were disarmed efficiently. Some of the men from militant background entered the political fray too, and they were not always willing to leave behind their militant ways.
Two men who were at the forefront of ensuring peace and prosperity returned to the people of North and East were former Governors Gen Chandrasiri, and Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama. I know many officials would like to show their gratitude openly but prevailing political condition of witch hunting civil servants means they would rather share their opinion in anonymity.
Gentlemen on behalf of civil servants, and a thankful people of Northern and Eastern Provinces, I thank you for your contributions for making our lives what it is – PEACEFULL