UNF budget unfair by war ravaged NE - Gajendrakumar

[TamilNet, Thursday, 28 March 2002, 07:44 GMT]
"The United National Front (UNF) government's first budget has failed to treat the war ravaged northeast as a special zone for the development. The budget treats the northeast or rather, equates the northeast with the rest of island. Is this possible? Is this fair? How can a war zone for over twenty years be equated to other parts of the island?, asked Mr. Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance MP for Jaffna speaking on the United National Front government's first budget which was passed in Parliament Wednesday.

Referring to the destruction caused to northeast due to war, Mr.Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam said, "I expected the UNF's first budget to accept and recognize this reality. I am disappointed to note that it has failed in this respect. Instead this budget treats the northeast alike with the rest of the island. The budget could have announced the establishment of a Development Bank for the northeast, with the government providing the seed capital for its establishment. The budget could have given a commitment to mobilize the savings from the northeast to be deployed primarily to meet the development needs of the region. There could have been policy statement extending the assistance given by the international lending agencies to the northeast, as this region was starved of this assistance for the last two decades".

"Can the Prime Minister who had seen the extent of destruction of Chavakachcheri town equate it even with the worst off towns of the south? Can the pathetic situation in the Vanni, which has been so well documented by international humanitarian agencies, be equated with any region in the rest of the island? In doing so, can the normalization of life in the northeast, something that we consider to be interlinked with the peace process be achieved in any meaningful manner?"

"Let me spell out to this House what we mean by normalization of life. Normalization to us is for our people to be able to live in their own homes. We want to be able live in our homes with a roof over our heads, not in a home that has been bombed and is a heap of rubble.

"We want to enjoy the very basic amenities of life that we used to enjoy prior to the destruction brought upon our people. The destruction is something that must be addressed by any government that claims us as its citizens. The sure way this government could have achieved this was by demarcating the northeast as war damaged zone, requiring a special development thrust. We would have liked to see a chapter in the UNF's first budget that specifically targeted policy for northeast, because of the peculiar problems faced the region due to the war. A 'budget within a budget', if you like", Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam said.

The first budget of the United National Front (UNF) government was passed in the parliament Wednesday evening with a majority of thirty-four votes. One hundred and twenty one parliamentarians of UNF, Tamil National Alliance and the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party voted for the budget. President Kumaratunge's People's Alliance and Janata Vimukthi Peramuna parliamentarians voted against the budget.


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