The Leader of Opposition in Sri Lanka Parliament and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief R Sampanthan has demanded a review of the government’s proposed project of building 65,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern provinces for people hit by the civil war, The Hindu newspaper reported.
In similar letters to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the TNA leader, who spent the last weekend in the North, criticised the project on various counts such as durability, environmental suitability and cost. He also referred to reports, alleging irregularities in the tender process.
Adverting to the unit cost of Rs. 2.1 million under the project, he said this was two to three times more than what was provided under the Indian housing scheme. “This fact is of greater concern in a context where the housing need [in the North and the East] exceeds 130,000 and the Government is offering 65,000 – half of that number,” he said, describing 50,000 houses built under the Indian housing scheme as “environmentally suitable and durable.”
Citing the problem of unemployment in the North, he argued that serious consideration must be given to make use of the available local labour.
While commending the government’s resolve to address the housing needs of the two provinces, Mr Sampanthan said “all such efforts must take into consideration the needs and culture of the people themselves, and long term implications the initiative will have on the community. It is only then that such efforts can be an effective part of reconciliation. Such efforts must not, instead, fall prey to corruption and become a means of benefiting a powerful few.”
Reiterating the TNA’s commitment to engaging constructively with the government to bring about reconciliation, he pointed out to the President and the Prime Minister that “if the government is committed to reconciliation, its actions must reflect that.”
A spokesperson at the office of Resettlement and Rehabilitation Minister, D.M. Swaminathan, said the Minister would, in a couple of days, issue a detailed statement, responding to concerns of Mr Sampanthan. (Colombo Gazette)