The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has leveled serious allegations against the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation and Hindu Affairs D M Swaminathan of attempting to influences the TNA members by calling several of them and urging them to support the controversial project to built 65,000 houses for the war displaced in the North and East.
In a letter dated November 12, 2016 addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the NTA Parliamentary group comprising of 16 MPs said, “We were dismayed to find that Hon. D M Swaminathan has made personal telephone calls to several of us, inviting us to make a request for pre-fabricated houses in our respective electorates,” the letter said.
The letter was signed by R Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah, M A Sumanthiran, Selvam Adaikkalanathan, Seenithamby Yogeswaran, Nadesu Sivasakthi, S Shritharan, E Saravanapavan, D Sithadthan, Charles Nirmalanathan, K Thurairatnesingham, Shanthi Sriskandarasa, S Sivamohan, G Srineshan, K Kodeeswaran and S Viyalendran.
While highlighting that the TNA MPs elected from the North and the East largely represent the war affected Tamil people, the MPs reiterated their opposition to the pre-fabricated steel houses project funded by the French based company owned by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. “The Sectorial Oversight Committee on Rehabilitation took a unanimous decision on 10.11.2016 to reject the proposal to construct pre-fabricated steel houses and endorsed the alternate proposal put forward by the civil society,” the letter said.
The TNA MPs recalled that last year Minister Swaminathan announced the housing programme for 65,000 pre-fabricated steel house to be constructed by Arcelor Mittal, each house costing Rs. 2.1 million. “We strongly opposed this programme for several reasons; climatic unsuitability, flimsy construction, lack of durability, unjustifiable high cost,” the letter to Sirisena and Wickremesinghe said.
The TNA MPs reminded that ‘nevertheless’ they had made it very clear that their people desperately needed houses but the houses should be masonry houses which will cost less than half of the proposed pre-fabricated houses.
“We also worked with a group of civil society agencies and persons who generously contributed their time and expertise and forwarded an alternate proposal to be funded by a Consortium of local banks. This alternate proposal envisages the construction of 102,000 masonry houses at a cost of just under Rs. 1 million per house, and utilising local labour which would provide livelihood for a large number of people for a period of about 4 years,” the letter said.