Jaffna re-visited | Daily News

Jaffna re-visited

One cannot but agree with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he, recalling the glory days of the north, at the launch of the Enterprise Sri Lanka programme in Jaffna, said that the north was only rivaled by Colombo in the past before the war destroyed the socio-economic fabric of the region. Jaffna also had the best education system in the past but now all those educators were living overseas, he said. Attending the event exactly 35 years since Black July, the Premier did not fail to recall the unfortunate happenings, adding that the legacy of the war still lingered and the country was still in post war recovery.

Like the PM said, Jaffna, at one time, boasted of an industrious people who were the envy of their counterparts in the south. The northerner laid great store in education and most of the best products in the professions hailed from the north. Some of the best doctors patronized by the elite in Colombo came from the north and the same went for members in the teaching profession, engineers, accountants etc. The missionary schools in Jaffna boasted of such a reputation, the well to do parents in the south sent their offspring to these seats of learning to be groomed for the future. Leading politicians of a latter day such as Cabinet ministers E. L. B. Hurulle, A. M. S. Adhikari and Speaker of Parliament K. B. Ratnayake had their schooling in these missionary schools in the north, the last mentioned even excelling as a cricketer at St.Henry's in Point Pedro.

The people of Jaffna were also known for their legendary hospitality and during the pre-war years it was customary for Sinahala families in the south to visit their friends in the north and return with fond memories of these visits, sometimes laden with the specialties of the north such as the famous Jaffna mangoes and the murungas. Though visits to the north by sports teams in the schools and clubs, and, also, reciprocal visits, had been revived once again this was a regular feature in the past which brought together youth of different backgrounds and cultures that went a long way in fostering amity and concord between the two communities.

As mentioned already, the Jaffna people were an enterprising lot and nowhere was this spirit more evident than in the sphere of agriculture. The fact that the bulk of the onions, dried chilies and pulses came to the south from Jaffna, in the past, says much for this enterprise of the Jaffna farmer who had to toil on arid and inhospitable terrain for his cultivation. In fact the Jaffna farmers showed their gratitude for this gesture when they welcomed Presidential candidate Hector Kobbekaduwe with a garland made of dried chilies during his visit to the north on the campaign trail.

Not only that, most politicians from the north also adorned the Cabinets of all governments before the outbreak of hostilities. The Thiruchelvams, Kumarasuriars and the Sunderalingams, served the country with great aplomb in their capacities as Cabinet ministers rubbing shoulders with their Sinhala colleagues. Alas, this camaraderie was put paid to as the separatist cry gained ground in later years and distrust and suspicion taking its place. This also saw the end to the collective effort to build the country, unlike in the past, where members of all communities worked hand in hand towards achieving common goals as they did together in the Independence struggle.

Therefore, every effort should be made to revive this spirit. In this respect the current reconciliation process should be fast tracked and all impediments standing in the way in this regard should be removed. There are racist elements, both, in the north and south, who will not hesitate to destroy whatever progress that is being made. Such elements should be identified and dealt with severely. Already certain politicians in the south have started beating the communal drum teaming up with likeminded media institutions. Reports have been appearing in certain anti-government newspapers of government plans to downsize the army and attempts to withdraw some 45 army camps in the north. This, amidst repeated denials by government spokesmen. Clearly attempts are being made to revive the ghosts of the past and derail the peace process.

Like the Premier noted, the country was still in post war recovery and it will be difficult to erase the scars overnight. “The legacy of the war still lingered, because even though the war ended in 2009, peace had remained elusive. So many people are still missing, we need to figure out how to resolve this issue,” he stated, adding that it was important to work together to put the country on the right track. He said; “extremism won and the country lost. But we can catch up”.

There certainly is a lot of catching up to do. The healing of hearts and minds should be given priority in this respect. This should go in tandem with the rebuilding and development of the north.

Many retired government servants still write for newspapers columns recalling those tranquil and leisurely times in Jaffna which gives the reader a picture of what the north was like then.


 

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