praises Jaffna heritage
are excerpts from a speech made yesterday by Indian
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna at the
inauguration of the Consulate General of India in
India’s relations with Sri Lanka would be incomplete
without highlighting the special relationship that
exists between the people of the Northern Province
in general, the Jaffna Peninsula in particular and
those of southern India.
Over centuries, Jaffna has always stood at the
crossroads of history, culture and religion, kings
and kingdoms, trade and commerce, and arts, dance
and literature. Jaffna port was on the main sea
route of its times. One of the great epics of Tamil
literature – Manimekalai - has reference to Jaffna.
Jaffna’s Tamil equivalent – Yaalpanam – itself
refers to the mythical harp player from Kanchipuram
receiving the land as a royal gift.
Tamil intellectuals and scholars from Jaffna like
Arumuga Navalar and C W Thamodaram Pillai have
enriched Tamil literature by their deep
understanding and study of ancient Tamil literature.
It is, therefore, natural that when India decided to
establish a Consulate General, Jaffna was a logical,
almost inevitable, place for such a presence.
There must be several in this audience who would
have seen the days when there was a direct flight
from Palaly to Trichy and a ferry service from
Talaimannar to Rameswaram. It is possible that some
among you may even have gone off to Chennai – Madras
as it was called – only to catch a movie. It’s time
to revive those links.
Sri Lanka has recently come through probably the
most difficult period in its history.
While the armed conflict that ended last year
impacted on all sections of the population of this
country, it did so disproportionately on the
civilian population of the Northern Province, as
innocent men, women and children were caught up in
the cross-fire not of their own making. Several
thousands of Internally Displaced Persons – held as
human shields – came out of the zone of conflict.
The challenge before Sri Lanka is to resettle the
Internally Displaced Persons and take up the task of
rehabilitating and reconstruction of Northern Sri
India has tried to contribute whatever it can to
alleviate to miseries and difficulties the people in
Northern Province underwent. Initially we rushed
food, clothing, medicines and other daily-use
articles to the camps. Our emergency field hospital,
first in Pulmoddai and later in Menik Farm, which
treated more than fifty thousand patients and where
Indian doctors carried out more than three thousand
surgeries, was a symbol of our solidarity with those
who had suffered the worst in the closing stages of
In recent months, we have extended a helping hand to
those who are being resettled in their former places
of habitation by providing roofing sheets and cement
to help them build transitional shelters and
agricultural toolkits to start minimal gardening
We are now looking at the rehabilitation and
reconstruction of Northern Province and supplement
the efforts of the Sri Lankan Government. Later
today, I hope to flag-off, in a ground-breaking
ceremony, the Pilot Project for the Government of
India-aided housing project under which fifty
thousand houses will be built in Northern and
Eastern Sri Lanka. Earlier this month, India has
also begun the process of donating seeds as well as
five hundred tractors, with their associated tools
and implements, for distribution to agrarian service
centres in the Northern Province. We will stay
engaged to revive the livelihood of those in the
Northern Province and help people rebuild their
Even as we focus on the immediate tasks of relief
and rehabilitation, longer term reconstruction is
equally important. India will remain committed to
this task as well. Later today, I will inaugurate
the work to be carried out by an Indian company,
IRCON, on the reconstruction of the Northern Railway
from Medawachchiya to Madhu.
Work will also begin simultaneously on the
Madhu-Talaimannar and Omanthai-Pallai railway lines.
As this region returns to peace and normalcy, one of
the priorities of the governments of India and Sri
Lanka is to resume the old ties and linkages of
connectivity that existed between our two countries.
With this in view, we have recently completed
negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding on
resuming ferry services, both from Colombo to
Tuticorin and Talaimannar to Rameswaram.
At Talaimannar, the old pier will also be rebuilt.
We have started the rehabilitation and
reconstruction of the Kankesanthurai harbour and
restore it as the hub of Jaffna’s commercial
lifeline. After all, Point Calimere is only 40
nautical miles from KKS.
We hope the government of Sri Lanka will develop
Palaly as a civil airport and restore its
connectivity with India and within Sri Lanka.
I am confident that the resumption, in the years
to come, of these multiple linkages will not only
restore people-to-people contact, but will also give
a tremendous fillip to the local economies in our
To ensure that the cultural heights of Jaffna are
indeed revived, the Consulate General of India will
assist in setting up the Jaffna Cultural Centre and
restore the Duriappa stadium.
We are undertaking the restoration of the
Thiruketeeswaram temple in Mannar.
The end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009
provides Sri Lanka with an unparalleled opportunity
to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of
understanding and mutual accommodation and to work
towards genuine national reconciliation. We are
convinced that a meaningful devolution package,
building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the
necessary conditions for a lasting political
settlement. We hope that this process of dialogue
and discussion would start soon with the
participation of all communities. The ultimate goal
is to live in dignity and peace.
Before I conclude, I would like to place on
record my deep appreciation for the cooperation
extended in the task of the opening of this
Consulate General by the Sri Lankan Ministry of
External Affairs under the leadership of Prof
I would also like to thank the offices of the
Governor of the Northern Province and the Government
Agent of Jaffna for their facilitation in setting up
this post, which, I hope, will continue to receive
their cooperation and assistance.
I have no doubt that this development holds rich
promise for the further flowering of the relations
between our two countries.