By M. A. Sumanthiran –
Thank you Hon. Deputy Chairman for the opportunity to speak on the second reading of the budget proposal made by the Hon. Minister of Finance.
Before I start speaking on the proposals themselves let me with your permission say that today’s proceedings started on a very auspicious note. My good friend the Hon. A.H.M Azwer made a clarification with regard to his conduct in this House yesterday. We welcome the clarification he made and we hope that that spirit will prevail in the future too, that he does not intend to disturb and stop anyone from speaking. That’s a good explanation. We welcome that.
There is one thing though, that I’m a little concerned about. This House will remember…
(interruption) That’s right, I welcomed your explanation, so don’t disturb. We welcome what you said… Thank you
I am disturbed about one matter. On the 26th of November my colleague the Hon. Member from Jaffna, Hon. Sritharan, made a speech in this House. He made certain remarks in his speech and for the next two days running almost every Member who spoke referred to his speech as they started speaking. I could sense the sense of aggression in their voices in retaliation to perhaps some of the sentiments expressed. But what bewilders me is that the Hon. Member from Jaffna was allowed to speak without any interruption. He was not stopped by any Member of this House. And yet yesterday, when the Leader of the TNA Hon. Sampanthan, Hon. Member from Trincomalee spoke – spoke with a lot of moderation; spoke appealing to the majority people in this Country – he was constantly disturbed to the point that he had to take his seat several times and conclude with a very regretful note that this is how the minorities are treated not just in the country but even in this House. So this is the bewilderment. What you yourselves described as extremist speech you allow it to go on. In fact, you like it to be made. But you’re not happy with the voices of moderation. Now this is a dangerous trend. Why are you shutting out people who are moderate – people who are still appealing to the good sense, to the good will? We believe there is a lot of good will still left amongst all the communities in this country, and we’re appealing to that. So I think this second reading debate – apart from the budget proposals themselves and I’ll come to that in a moment, there isn’t much to talk about the budget – but the climate that was created, and the rise in temperatures also because it happens to take place during this week when Maaveerar day has been traditionally observed in certain parts of the country for a long time…it coincides generally with the budget debate and this issue has been happening every year, and it’s growing. It is not a good thing. People have a right to remember their dead. If they have remembered on a particular day, they must be permitted to remember their dead. Whether they be members of the LTTE, or members of the armed forces, civilians, whoever it may be, the relatives of the dead must have the right, and that any country that claims to be a civilized country must afford to its citizens. So to that extent I appeal… (interruption) Now please don’t disturb, you said you won’t disturb…I appeal again to the good sense, to the good will of all the people in this country to please understand and not make things worse by making allegations and counter allegations and making people feel that they are not wanted; making people feel that they can’t even perform the most basic of their obligations to their dead relatives.
Now during this time a few other things have also happened in the North. One Government Member spoke of the economic growth in the North and claimed that it is twenty five per cent (25%). Those are bogus figures. Previously too the Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs claimed this in a visit it to the US and they later retracted it. They later retracted because he was comparing apples with oranges; he was using a different base; real and nominal figures. Also when an area is recovering from the devastation of war you’re starting from a very low base. But what is most disturbing is added to all of this is the fact that the figures that are taken into account include the salaries that are paid to the soldiers who are stationed in the North. Now that can hardly be counted into the economic growth of the Northern Province. The economic activity that the soldiers are indulging in – they’re cultivating paddy; they’re cultivating vegetables; they’re selling them at the market for a lesser price than the farmers in the Jaffna peninsula; and all those figures are going into the economic figures. They’re running hotels – luxury hotels. Thal Sevana is advertised on the internet as a hotel run by the military. All those figures – that economic activity – goes into the Northern Province economic growth. Now this is hardly the thing that we want to see. If the people there must recover, must get back on their feet, you can’t force these false figures and claim to the world that this place has recovered. What do we have there?
In the last few days we have had the Chairman of the Delft Pradeshiya Sabha shot dead. Initially said to be suicide but now I think it’s fairly clear that that is a murder. And I regret this very much, and I would like to offer the condolences of our party to the family of the deceased; the leader of the EPDP is here, to him as well. We regret very much that this has happened.
Along with that incident there are several other incidents that have happened. Last Monday night the Deputy Chairman of the Valvettithurai Pradeshiya Sabha, Sathish’s house was attacked. On the same night, the Chairman of the Karavetti Pradeshiya Sabha, Vyagesh’s house was attacked. On Wednesday, in the early hours of the morning a Pradeshiya Sabha member of Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha Sri Ranjan’s house was attacked. Now these are TNA members. The Chairman of the Valigamam West Pradeshiya Sabha of the TNA, Nagaranjini Aingaran’s house was attacked. On Thursday, yesterday morning, the house of the Minister of Agriculture of the Northern Provincial Council, Aingaranesan’s house was attacked. Former Member of Parliament and present member of the Northern Provincial Council Mr. Sivajilingam’s house was visited in the night and a funeral wreath has been kept on his gate. Another house belonging to a relative of a Northern Provincial Council Member, Arnold, was attacked.
Now why have all these things happened? Why is this happening? Now if you say this is the Maaveerar week, and these are retaliatory attacks because people are lighting flames to remember their dead, can we accept that? Can we accept this as retaliation? And retaliation by whom? That’s the thousand dollar question. Retaliation by whom? Who is retaliating in the peninsula – in the Jaffna peninsula – to attack members of the TNA in this way? Thursday morning a large cutout which was used during the election campaign of the Northern Province Chief Minister Hon. Vigneswaran, which was inside the premises of the Uthayan guest house down Sivagnanasunderam lane, was burnt. Somebody scaled the wall and lit fire to it. Now who are the people who are doing this? Will any member of the Government answer this? Who is doing it?
Why are buildings within this illegal High Security Zone – there’s nothing legal about it, there’s no law declaring it to be a High Security Zone. In any case there can’t be one now with no existence of a State of Emergency…buildings that have stood for twenty three (23) years even when it was maintained as a High Security Zone are being destroyed. The day before (yesterday) the famous Vigneswara College was razed to the ground – bulldozed to the ground. Yesterday an Amman Temple and a Pillayar Temple were destroyed by bulldozers inside that so called ‘High Security Zone’. The Chief Minister went to see the place with the priest and he was stopped. He was stopped by the members of the military who have no right to stop him. Nor do they have the right to stop anyone going in there. There is no law saying you can’t proceed beyond that place – not even a gazette notification. So if the military is stopping the Chief Minister of the Northern Province from proceeding to an area over which he is the Chief Minister, who is ruling that place? Isn’t that military rule, then? Isn’t that military rule? I ask responsible Ministers, how is the Chief Minister prevented from proceeding to an area over which he is declared the Chief Minister? You boast to the world that you have had elections. You boast to the world that democracy is there in the North. That people can elect their members. But what can those members do? A man who was elected with one hundred and thirty two thousand (132,000) preferential votes, such an endorsement of the people, can’t even go to an area in that province. And no law to stop it, only the military. Isn’t that classic military rule? If not, how will any military describe it? There’s no Rule of Law, certainly no Rule of Law. Because otherwise there would be a law declaring it to be an area that people can’t walk into.
(Interruption)…Now, you complain about Cameron. (interruption)…No, I can understand. I’m not at odds with you, Minister. I can understand the hurt feelings. I’m fully with you on that. I can understand the hurt feelings. I’m only talking about the sense of alienation that the people there feel. People here feel hurt that a visiting Prime Minister has said these things and gone. I can understand that. But people there feel – what do they feel? They feel, ‘at least somebody has spoken out for us’. (interruption) No this is true. You must understand this. You must understand both sides. That is why I’m appealing to at least the Senior Ministers here to listen to voices of moderation. Why do those people feel like that? They say their voices are not heard. So they say, ‘after all, David Cameron had to come and speak on our behalf. Only when David Cameron spoke, the world heard. Otherwise our voices are stifled. We can’t be heard. We are outside. Our houses are there. We lived in those places. We are in refugee camps for twenty three (23) years’. Why is that?
So, I’m asking…(interruption) now you must control clowns like this. If you set up…(interruption) no, this is precisely what I’m talking about. If you set up clowns like this to stifle our voices, what is the message you are giving the world? I’m not even denying….(interruption) well, I have spoke for the Muslims, Hon. Azwer, you know about that. I have spoken everywhere. I have spoken all over the world. Most recently…(interruption) listen to me, please. Please listen to me. Most recently in Canada when the diaspora asked me about the Muslims, I said, ‘what happened to the Muslims in the name of the Tamil people was an injustice’. I said that. And I also said, ‘if Tamil people don’t agree with what I’m saying I will leave politics and go. I will not change my stand on that.’ You can watch all my speeches and see. I have never deviated from that position. (continuous interruption) A grave injustice was committed to the Muslim people. There were injustices – there were several violations – that the Sinhalese people also suffered. I’m not denying that. I’m saying all this happened. But haven’t we come more than four years after the end of the conflict? Why should the people in the North and the East have to suffer all these indignities even now? Even now? Don’t we want to put these things behind us and go forward together? We are willing to do that. We are willing to do that but my worry is that even the Government and its agents are happier with extremist voices rather than our voices of moderation. That’s a very serious issue and I’m saying this in this House with all responsibility, and I’m appealing to Members here who are responsible, please don’t allow this country to go down that slope again. We will do our best to prevent that. I give you my assurance, we will do our best. But I also appeal to you, you must also do your best in seeing that extremist forces on either side don’t have their way again.
Thank you very much.
*Speech by M.A. Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament, Tamil National Alliance (29th November 2013)