Tamil MP protests over budget

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 19 November 1997, 23:59 GMT]
"Are you treating us as a separate people living in a separate nation or as a people living in a united Sri Lanka" asked Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham addressing Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister for Finance Prof. G.L Pieris while speaking on the budget vote in Parliament today.

The following are excerpts from his speech-

joseph_pararasasingam.gif"your defence expenditure for next year is forty five billion rupees. The total amount this government spent on defence since it came to power in 1994 is equivalent to the money that was spent on the war from 1983 to mid August 1994. Your defence expenditure for 1998 is equivalent to the total defence expenditure for the first seven and a half years of the war since 1983. The 1998 defence spending is 23 percent of the country's total revenue and 13.5 percent of the total expenditure for 1998"

"This country is maintaining the largest army in the world on a per capita basis (sic). Sri Lanka's population of 18 million has a standing army of 110,000. Ninety five percent of the army consists of the majority community. This means that there is a soldier in the army to every 124 persons in the population. India has an army of 1.1 million and a population of 836 million which means a ratio of one soldier to 836 people. On the Sri Lankan ratio India has to have a standing army of 5.5 million. This is a no win war. The ground reality is such that this war cannot be won. The government should negotiate with the LTTE with third party mediation".

Mr. Susil Moonesinghe MP of the UNP interrupted Mr. Joseph saying that there not ethnic problem in Sri Lanka but only a terrorist problem. To this the Batticaloa Parliamentarian retorted that Mr. Moonesinghe should study history before making such sweeping comments.

The leader of the PLOTE Mr. Dharmalingam Sidarthan MP said in his speech that it is not important when the government is going to talk to the LTTE but what it is going to talk with the LTTE. He said that in the past negotiations with the Tigers have failed because only the government spoke to them. Talks with the LTTE can be meaningful only if the government and the UNP first come to a consensus on what they have to offer to the Tamil people said the PLOTE leader.

UNP leader Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe also urged the importance of opening a dialogue with the Liberation Tigers to resolve the conflict in Sri Lanka during his speech on the voting of the budget. The PA's 1998 budget was passed today in Parliament with 126 ayes and 85 against.


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