The Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran, appealed to the Government to reconsider its plan to build prefabricated houses for displaced persons. Speaking at a function on 12 March in Kopay to mark the handing over of 700 acres of land to civilians, Mr. Wigneswaran appealed to the President to give up the housing project on the grounds that it is too expensive and also unsuited to the economic condition of the displaced Tamils. “They do not suit our climate, our environment, our culture, our way of life and are exorbitantly expensive. We can build up to 2 or 3 houses with the money spent for each house. Houses with furniture, TVs, solar panels and gas cylinders would create a new elite among the IDPs being resettled,” he said.
Your Excellency the President, Hon’ Ministers, distinguished guests High Officials of Government and the Military, my dear brothers and sisters.
It is indeed a happy occasion for us. The return of even one acre of land to the owners by those who are not entitled to hold on to it, is to be welcomed. There is a wrong perception among the Military that lands captured from the Militants could be kept by them. This is a phenomenon to be expected when one country invades another country. As far as Sri Lanka was concerned the writ of the Government ran across this country continuously since all Government officials were paid and are still being paid by the Sri Lankan Government.
The war was only an insurrection, an uprising within the same Country. Therefore when the war is over the Army is expected give back the land captured by them to their People. They cannot point to the Militants to enable them to continue to hold on to any property without handing them over to the legitimate owners. What is to be done with Militant owned lands has to be decided by Civil authorities and not by the Military. Any attempt by the Military to hold on to such land would create the perception among our people that they are being held forcibly by an Occupational army. The Sinhalese would then be continued to be looked upon as aliens who have taken forcibly taken possession of their traditional lands. This could never lead to reconciliation.
As soon as the War was over, steps should have been taken for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) which is an integral part of post conflict peace consolidation.
We are glad though very slow, steps are being directed in the correct direction. We had a professional soldier in Commander Udhaya Perera earlier and I have no doubt the new Commander Mahesh Senanayake is an equally sound professional Commander.
The Tamil people have always respected professionalism whenever and whereever found. It was such recognition that made them vote for Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in his election against Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. I am glad the Field Marshall has called for an International Inquiry into the War Crimes.
While welcoming His Excellency and all the other distinguished guests let me take this opportunity to mention here that every person displaced because of the war must be allowed to get back to his/her land, trade, profession or means of livelihood. That is sacrosanct. Expansion of Airport and Habour should come in after every one of our people are placed back in their areas.
The Myliddy natural habour was second only to the Mirissa fishing habour in the South. The fishermen in Myliddy are clamouring to get back to their original means of livelihood for centuries – fishing.
I believe our President a little while ago would have inspected the houses put up by a French Company in Tellipalai and Kopay. Even though our Minister Swaminathan feeling is that my views may be negative, at least at this last minute even, let me say that such houses are not suited for our people.
They do not suit our climate, our environment, our culture, our way of life and are exorbitantly expensive. When compared with other houses we could build up to 2 – 3 houses with the money spent for each such house. Houses with furniture, TVs, Solar Panels and Gas cylinders would create a new elite among the IDPs being resettled.
Repairs to these houses cannot be under taken immediately due to the type of prefabricated materials used in building these houses. Gas cylinders are being given but the Gas has to be purchased out of their own money. How many of them could afford to buy them? If they cannot use the Gas cylinders and they try to go back to their traditional ways of cooking there would be many negative consequences in a building of the nature built.
Our engineers have inspected these buildings and given reports which are not favourable.
It would therefore be prudent to reconsider the construction of 65 000 houses building program as formulated in the present manner. Hope I have not exceeded my time limit. Thank you to all of you.