Governor of the Northern Province, Reginold Cooray said that the media has sensationalized the crimes that took place in Jaffna with the intention of increasing their client base. “Crimes of similar magnitude take place in the South as well, but the media highlights the ones that take place in Jaffna,” he said. Commenting on the Aava Group that entered the spotlight with its atrocities recently, Cooray stated that they are a misguided set of youngsters who are inspired by Indian action movies. “In the past, only the downtrodden groups rose against social injustice, but now things have changed. Youngsters who receive funds from abroad want to engage in stunts,” said Cooray.
Below are the excerpts of the interview Ceylon Today had with him.
? In retrospect, the present situation in Jaffna is akin to that of the era when the LTTE occupied the peninsula. With increased criminal activities, do you think there is a threat to the security of the area at present?
A: The media does not portray the real picture in Jaffna. Nowadays, the media highlights only the negativeaspects of the society in order to increase its client base. Hence, exaggerations are inevitable in such situations.
A majority of the people in Jaffna are very considerate and work very hard in order to earn an honest living. They have suffered for many years at the hands of terrorists. I do not think that they will want to undergo this again. If any act of cruelty takes place in Jaffna, it is sensationalized by the media. In fact, crimes of similar magnitude take place in other parts of the country, but only the ones that take place in Jaffna are highlighted.
I can safely say that the situation in Jaffna is relaxed and peaceful when compared with the situation in the South. I do not agree with some people’s notion that the situation in Jaffna is rapidly deteriorating and going back to the era of LTTE occupation. During the LTTE era, the crimes and agitation were politically motivated.
There was hegemony and dictatorship in Jaffna during the LTTE era. Although a few isolated incidents are reported, Jaffna is politically stable at present.
? With the manifestation of the Aava Group in Jaffna, many individuals have expressed fear that the LTTE might regroup. What is your opinion about this?
A: That is an unprecedented trend. Unrest in Jaffna prevailed previously due to the socio-economic injustice the people of Jaffna had to face. They had to fight for their rights.
On the contrary, most of the youngsters who have joined the Aava Group are not downtrodden. They are well to do. Generally, youngsters like to imitate others, and members of the Aava Group have gained inspiration from Indian action movies. Modern technology is also a contributing factor.
? Most of the youngsters in the Aava Group are unemployed, but lead affluent lives. Any comments about how they manage to amass wealth?
A: It is common knowledge that many of the residents of Jaffna receive financial aid from their relatives who live overseas. The same is true in the case of the members of the Aava Group. They do not utilize that aid for their betterment, but instead, waste it on useless and unproductive activities.
They are a misguided and immature set of youngsters who could have led successful lives had they received proper guidance. I can safely say that the Aava Group is not politically motivated.
? Do you agree with the notion that the Aava Group is funded by the Tamil Diaspora in a bid to reinstate the LTTE outfit?
A: I neither agree nor disagree. It is the responsibility of the Police and the State Intelligence Service to trace any criminal activities.
I have a belief that some movements need to create unrest in the country in order to achieve their selfish objectives. When outfits like the LTTE are set up, they use it as an excuse to collect financial aid.
? You said that it is the responsibility of the intelligence personnel and the Police to track down the criminals. The Opposition has criticised the government for hamstringing the intelligence service in Jaffna. They go on saying that the government was unable to crack down on groups like the Aava Group because the intelligence service in Jaffna was not functioning properly. What is your opinion about this?
A: In order to mask their political insignificance, they sling mud at the government for no apparent reason. No State would compromise on its national security by hamstringing the intelligence service in the country.
? During his visit to Jaffna, IGP Pujith Jayasundara said that the members of the Aava Group were ex-LTTE cadres. Contrary to Pujith Jayasundara‘s comment, the Army Commander, Mahesh Senanayake said that no ex-LTTE members were involved in the incidents that took place in the North. Any comments?
A: In retrospect, it is quite normal for people to suspect that the members of the Aava Group are ex-LTTE cadres. It is alright for the security forces to remain vigilant. Some misled youngsters want to create unrest and disturb the peace in the peninsula. This is part of a guerrilla movement and due to this reason people will obviously be suspicious. Even though there is a difference of opinion, I believe that the investigation should be carried out in a comprehensive manner.
The security forces personnel are free to have different views, but that does not affect the process of cracking down on criminals.
? The extremist politicians in the North have urged the government to remove the Armed Forces from the North. If we analyse the current situation, a majority of the Tamil politicians and other high ranking officers are guarded by Sinhala Armed Personnel. Why are politicians two-faced?
A: I too hold a similar opinion about that. If they are so obsessed with ousting the Armed Forces from the North, they are supposed to send back their security personnel as well. Then they have to appoint Tamil security officers.
While urging the current government to remove the Sinhala Armed Forces from the North, they expect the same Armed Forces to protect them. This is deceptive.
? It is in fact the politicians who oppose the existence of the Sinhala Armed Forces in the North not the civilians. What is your observation?
A: Yes. The masses are of the opinion that the Armed Forces should remain in those areas for their safety. They have the right to ask the Armed Forces to return their land. People simply want their lands back and are not demanding that the armed forced need to be sent to the South.
The Armed Forces not only provide the civilians with security, but also assist them in various other ways. The Armed Forces are also engaged in facilitating certain religious activities and assisting people when they attend religious festivals at Maviddapuram and Katchatheevu Island.
The Bishop of Jaffna has praised the Armed Forces on several occasions for their assistance in organizing the Katchatheevu Festival.
Therefore, people are not adversely affected by the presence of the Armed Forces in Jaffna.
? How is the resettlement process going in Jaffna?
A: The government has initiated a new housing project in Jaffna. Approximately 60,000 houses will be built under this project.
Although the government has embarked on such a project that would be beneficial to the residents of the North,politicians have apparently impeded the progress of the programme.
Then the government decided if the people want the housing project, the government will embark on it. We have received about 6000 applications from people who are in need of proper housing.
Most of the lands are also being released at present such as the lands in Keppapilavu and Myliddy Harbour. Gradually, lands will be returned to their rightful owners. People have had faith in the government and they are happy with it at present.
People are of the opinion that this is the time to heal the wounds and also to obtain the optimum assistance from the government to develop those areas.
? Although some mothers and wives claim that Sri Lanka‘s Armed Forces are responsible for the enforced disappearance of their sons and husbands, it has been revealed that many of the people who are listed as ‘missing‘ are living in Europe as refugees. Any comments on this?
A: I also heard about this, but I do not have the statistics in order to accurately state how many ‘missing’ people have sought political asylum in Europe. According to the Paranagama Report, it is said that some are living in foreign countries as refugees.
? How effective is the present reconciliation process?
A: I can say that true reconciliation exists in the country at present. Infrastructure facilities have been made and interaction between the North and the South has been simplified. The two communities get on well and they have understood the similarities between them.
The Central Government is providing funds for the North for the development initiatives. During disasters, people from the South offer their assistance to their brethren in the North and vice versa.
Recently, we saw how a Tamil High Court Judge mourned the death of his bodyguard who was killed in cold blood. Some people from the South asked me “Can Tamil people have such a great affection towards the Sinhalese.” This is a golden example of reconciliation in the country.
Professor Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera visited Jaffna with hundred Buddhist monks to donate blood to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.
The Sinhalese in the South assist the Tamil community in the North in whatever way possible.
? What is the present status of the developmental activities in Jaffna?
A: The Central Government provides sufficient funds for the development of the region. Yet, the politicians are not utilizing those funds efficiently and effectively. Centre-periphery coordination should be strengthened to carry out development in the North in a sound manner.
Although foreign investors are prepared to invest in the North, the politicians in the North are indifferent to them.
I do not understand why those politicians in the North are so reluctant to develop the region. It is my observation that they are obsessed with some unwarranted political objectives such as a Federal Government and separatism.
These politicians are not taking the maximum benefit out of the Provincial Council and do not take advantage of the grants they are provided with.
BY PANCHAMEE HEWAVISSENTI