Don't Blame the Chief Minister; Reframe the question. 

27/05/2016

  
Is it really fair to blame the Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed for the unfortunate incident that happened in Sampoor?

There is no doubt that the Chief Minister should have handled the situation in a more dignified manner, but is he the only person at fault here? Why hasn't anybody questioned the level of militarisation in the North and East that has created an environment for such confrontations between the civil administration and the military to take place?

Ever since the war in Sri Lanka came to an end militarization of the North and East has been one of the biggest challenges for reconciliation. The military’s increasing control of administrative decisions in the north and east, including distribution and use of land, has turned the issue of land ownership into a deeply politicized and ethnically-charged one. Administrative and developmental decisions in north-east Sri Lanka are also frequently taken by the military and the military is also expected to be invited to all major events in the North and East. Their presence often overshadows the activities of the civil administration. So such clash of protocols that could have been avoided was always expected given the state of affairs in the North and East.    

The Chief Minister of the Northern Province has been very vocal about the military's interference in the civil administration of the North and East. Even recently there was an outpouring of public anger in the North over an attack against two Grama Sevakas (Village Government officials) from Mullaitivu. Last month two Grama Sevakas from Mullaitivu were attacked for seeking to inquire and report to the Mullaitivu District Secretary (GA) into certain structures set up by Sinhala fishermen from the South on private land in Kokkuththoduvaay. They were subsequently handed over to the SL Army 592 Division where they were severely reprimanded and their official work IDs confiscated. Following the intervention of the Divisional Secretary they were released and the IDs returned. This is just one of the many recent incidents of the military's interference with the civil administration.

Responding to the incident the Ministry of Defence has now banned Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed from entering military camps and the security forces will also not attend any functions attended by him.

Now the other pertinent question that still remains unanswered is as to whether the military will now be extra cautious in the manner in which they deal with the civil administration in these two provinces. Will their high-handed approach in their dealings with the civil administration change in the future?