Visit by Hon’ Minister Malik Samarawickrame
First Seminar on the National Program to establish 2000 Exporters
at the Jaffna District Secretariat Auditorium
on 23.03.2017 at 9 am
Chief Minister’s Speech
Hon’ Minister, Hon’ State Minister, Hon’ Governor, Member of Parliament Hon’ Sumanthiran Mrs.Indra Malwatte, Chairperson and Chief Executive of EDB, our Chief Secretary, our Government Agent, our honoured guests, our resource persons and my dear brothers and sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome Hon’ Minister Malik Samarwickrama who hails from the same College that I and my Strategic Advisor attended. Hon’ Sumanthiran also attend the same College. We are conscious of the Hon’ Minister’s concern to create awareness among potential entrepreneurs to attract them and transform them to be Exporters.
A Fellow of the Cost and Management Accountants, Hon’ Minister is interested in formulating strategies to encourage and incentivize industries in the Country to enable them to enter the International market. He has excelled in the garment Industry prior to coming to politics and is a good team player having excelled in rugger and other sports. We in the Northern Province are delighted to be partners in this economic and social venture provided the Hon’ Minister and other senior staff officers from the Centre do take the trouble to empathise with the background of this war torn, war battered region which has undergone umpteen problems so far and do face most of them even now.
In the aftermath of the war the People in the North expected to get back to a normal democratic lease of life. But that did not take place. They were immediately invaded by corporate invaders who introduced many consumer articles to a luxury starved humanity on instalment basis and deprived them of their consumer articles and instalments paid thereto when they exercised their right of parate execution.
Our areas continued to be occupied by the Military over 150000 in number, who took over inter alia our irrigable and fertile lands, our buildings, our gardens, our farms, and our businesses and were inter alia involved in illegal activities with others mainly from the south in felling of trees, using illegal methods of fishing depriving the locals the right to fish in their traditional areas. We could inform any reliable impartial team of investigators details of what is taking place here if they are prepared to take note of the facts.
Our infrastructures have been severely imaciated. Our people even now suffer from psycho somatic diseases. They are exposed to drugs. They seek justice for their loved ones who are missing after their loved ones had been taken into custody by discernible persons after a public call for them to surrender. Despite a consensus resolution the present Government has not shown its commitment for truth and justice. Our internally displaced still are unable to get back to their traditional places of residence. Our resources are surreptitiously whisked away even now. I could state so much more specially with regard to our youth in prison for number of years and the need to withdraw the PTA and so on.
The ONUR under Madam Chandrika is going around putting up water tanks and toilets but the existence of ONUR has not had the desired effect. Reconciliation is not possible by doling out consumer articles, building conveniences and mouthing conciliatory words. There must be the will to solve the basic causes for the discontent of the discriminated sections of our people.
Despite such shortcomings and poverty stricken background of our people we are desirous of joining up with the Minister in ushering in a different culture which will enhance our capacity and improve our economic base and structure.
We have certain positives on our side. We have been seafarers and entrepreneurs from the early days. The Chola Empire spread across the Far Eastern Archipelago to such an extent that Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia still speak of their Hindu cultural remains from the past.
We Tamils have been entrepreneurs by instinct and inclination. We marketed Education in the early British days. We marketed our skills and conscientious life style within the British Empire and were known for our dependability and loyalty.
Thus when successive riots and pogroms drove the Tamils of Sri Lanka out to other Countries of the World they soon became quite innovative in their entrepreneurship that they did and are doing quite well in the Countries of their adoption.
The diaspora would be a powerful source of help to our entrepreneurs. In fact many a person among our diaspora whom I met during my visits recently to US, UK and Canada are interested in collaborating with the locals in trade and commerce provided the Central Government gives them guarantees that obstacles and barricades would not be put on their path of progress. That a discriminatory attitude would not daunt them.
We must not forget that we in the Northern Province before the War started, had been involved in a big way in exporting many food items and articles abroad. For example around 1980 manioc was exported directly to the Middle East from Jaffna via Palali Air port. Materials came from India through our harbours and our produce went there. The opening of our Northern Harbours and Airport would pave the way for trade and commerce in a big way. Capitalizing on the regional economic opportunities if we can develop our processing skills and packaging skills we could do wonders with our products. Today our vegetables fetch very low prices. Our Rice and other food items including fruits like bananas and mangoes are unable to fetch the price they deserve. Often the Central Government imports Rice, Onions, Potatoes and other produces when ours are ready for the market. Our Paddy needs storing facilities. Our vegetables need storage facilities. Our sea food needs refrigerating facilities.
If we continue to suffer from a state security perspective every action on the part of our people would connote treasonable activity. It is high time there is mutual trust among us. It is a fact that during the past eight years there have not been any activity in the Northern Province which connotes a return to the war days. Some allegations by the armed forces have been exposed as actions taken by the Military to ensure their continued stay in the North and East. I have over and over again suggested the withdrawal of all Military from the North and East to be replaced by an enhanced efficient Police Force. A doubled efficient Police force with adequate Tamil speaking officers would suffice in place of the Armed Forces who are an anachronism in our areas and in our midst.
I would welcome the idea of an Exporters’ Association being started here in Jaffna to look into their needs and requirements. A closer collaboration between the Centre and the periphery could certainly bring lots of economic benefit to both. Our participants today specially the prospective entrepreneurs are expected to go through carefully the document circularized under the heading “Strengthening Investment opportunities for Export Industries – Northern Province” and give their views on its contents. Many areas of investment opportunities have been identified. They must be critically analyzed and your inputs must be made known.
With a Minister like Hon’ Malik Samarawickram who is known more as a dove rather than a hawk among the Sinhalese politicians close collaboration is easy and possible.
We look forward Sir, under your able administration and supervision our Entrepreneurs would be able to make sufficient headway towards economic regeneration and prosperity.
Hon’ Minister! you would have noticed the unemployed graduates out side this Secretariat who are demonstrating due to the lack of job opportunities. They need to be helped. May I suggest to you Sir! with your experience and influence in the garment industry that you do arrange for scholarships to be offered to these unemployed youth who would like to enter the garment industry to learn the skills and techniques useful to them to transform themselves into successful entrepreneurs in the Garment Industry.
I need not remind you Sir that we had learnt to play the game the way it should be at Royal! Your empathy towards our unfortunate youth would be the playing of the game in the proper manner!
I thank all of you for your patient hearing. I thank the Hon’ Minister and the Chairperson and Chief Executive of the EDB for their whole hearted support for our expectant entrepreneurs who had been a neglected lot so far. Thank you once again to all present.