The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief and Leader of Opposition R. Sampanthan on Friday dismissed the argument in certain sections that any measure in support of Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces would have an adverse impact on national security of Sri Lanka.
“National security can only be secured if there is justice, equality and equal treatment of all people,” he said, initiating a debate in Parliament on a host of issues concerning the two provinces.
Urging Colombo to act fast in the areas of return of lands, release of “political prisoners” and the creation of employment opportunities for the Tamil youth, Mr. Sampanthan said there was a feeling among “some sections of thinking society” that the government was not making further progress on the release of lands on account of “imaginary, exaggerated and fabricated fears on the part of some people” that by handing over lands back to the Tamils, the national security would be affected. “On the contrary, if the lands are released, those lands will be put to productive use,” the Leader of Opposition said.
Acknowledging that the present government had a “new attitude, new approach” towards the Tamil question, he, however, said this was not being “translated into action on the ground” which would have an impact [positively] on the lives of the Tamils.
Later, D.M. Swaminathan, Minister in charge of Rehabilitation, Resettlement, Prison Reform and Hindu Religious Affairs, gave an elaborate account of the government’s steps in the last one and a half years. Approximately, 3,140 acres of land in the North and the East had been released.
On the status of a project of building 65,000 houses in the two provinces, the Minister said a total of 97,232 applications had been received from all the eight districts. This included 32,050 applications from Jaffna. Besides, under the Ministry’s funding, 10,030 permanent houses were being built in 11 districts, including Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, all regarded as “border districts.”
After the implementation of housing projects supported by the World Bank and the Indian government, it was found that 1,37,000 houses were still required to be built, Mr. Swaminathan pointed out. (The Hindu)