Since the victory of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Nov. 16 Presidential Elections, all SLPP members including myself have received more responsibility in working towards achieving President Rajapaksa’s vision and getting the country back on track.
After all, there remains much to be done in this beautiful country after the severe failures, malpractices and corruption caused by the former UNF government who came in vowing good governance in 2015, but departed as the worst performing government Sri Lanka ever had.
The time lost in greed and corruption these past four and a half years is regrettable. Especially considering the fact that it set us back as a nation, and downgraded our economic status and unleashed enormous suffering on our citizens.
However, Nov. 16 dawned a new era for Sri Lanka and the new government headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are now determined to drive this nation towards a positive tomorrow.
These past few weeks, since November, I have been travelling to several areas of the country speaking to the citizens, listening to their hardships and promoting the President and Prime Minister’s firm vision. One of the constituencies I have also been spending a lot of time is in Tangalle, which is my home constituency and the constituency of Sajith Premadasa.
Now we all know that Mr Premadasa held one of the most vital portfolios during the previous UNF government and that is the Ministry of Housing. What I mean by vital is that this Ministry offers a lot of relief to the most needy families who are struggling to put a roof above their heads. Such families number in several thousands.
In these past four and a half years, I personally have received several complaints from many needy people complaining of malpractices in the Housing Ministry and complaints from the poor having failed to receive houses. Even while in the opposition, I visited these needy people and the projects which fell under the Housing Ministry and the state of these projects were appalling.
It is shocking to note that many houses had been constructed in a pathetic condition by the Housing authorities and people do not have clear deeds to their homes even to this day. Infact, following an investigation, it has now come to light that the Housing Ministry, under Mr. Sajith Premadasa ended up spending millions more than their budgetary allocations but houses remain incomplete without clear title deeds. These projects have been left halfway, construction of homes have been of poor quality and people are still struggling with clear deeds, why was there such a colossal waste of money? And what was that money spent on?
Further it has come to light that most of the houses built for people have not been constructed on state lands or lands belonging to the Housing Ministry, Instead these houses have been built on wild lands with no clear deeds and are the habitats of animals, more frequently elephants. This is one of the main causes for the escalation of the human elephant conflict within these past four and a half years. The number of human and elephant deaths in such conflicts within these past few years has been tragic, but it is a matter which was blatantly ignored by the Housing Ministry and the previous government.
How can any authority or politician rest, by jeopardizing the lives of innocent poor families who trust the state to keep them safe? How can we sleep knowing that little children may be attacked by wild animals and their homes have become their dungeons of death?
The Housing Ministry has severely violated procedures by allocating houses on wild land and now these families are left with no ownership deeds. Which is why many families, after having constructed their houses have been kicked out of their homes as these are unauthorized lands and dangerous for occupation. Further more, what is even more shocking is that loans given by the Housing Ministry for construction of homes has charged exorbitant sums as interest rates from the poor house owners which has left many thousands still paying the interest to date. Many in fact have complained that their eager incomes have gone into only paying the interest within these past four years.
For example, one family I spoke to said they had obtained Rs. 40,000 as a loan from the Housing Ministry from the allocated Rs.500,000 but to date they continue to pay the interest for the full half a million.
This is daylight robbery.
Sri Lankan citizens have faced enormous set backs under the previous government, but injustice on the poor in such a gross manner is shocking.
Today I highlight this grave issue not only as a politician, but also as a human being who wants to provide justice to these innocent people. Whatever heights we politicians climb to, we must always remember that our first priority is our citizens who have placed their confidence in us. It gives us no right to cheat them just to get their votes and then take them as a joke.
The Housing authorities under Mr Sajith Premadasa has to provide an explanation for the severe injustice they have caused.
For such a blatant violation to occur in this day and age, makes us wonder, what some have transpired into. Shame!