by Shamindra Ferdinando
Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe yesterday denied Tamil National Alliance (TNA) allegation that there was a move to settle outsiders in the Mullaitivu district.
Samarasinghe emphasized that there was absolutely no basis for this claim. The SLFPer said so when The Island sought an explanation as to why President Maithripala Sirisena, ministers, including Samarasinghe as well as senior government officials remained silent when the TNA made unsubstantiated allegations at a meeting chaired by President Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat on Monday (Aug 27).
The TNA parliamentary group headed by R Sampanthan, the Leader of the Opposition and the Tamil National Alliance participated at the meeting to discuss the status of development projects in the northern and eastern provinces. Among those present were Leader of the ITAK Mavai Senathirajah, Leader of the TELO Selvam Adaikkalanathan and Leader of the PLOTE Dharmalingam Siddarthan.
Saramarasinghe said that when the TNA raised the issue, President Sirisena, immediately contacted the senior officer in charge of projects in that area to inquire about the accusation. Having clarified the situation, President Sirisena assured that the TNA there was no basis for such accusations. Samarasinghe said that the TNA’s concerns were addressed then and there.
However, The Island pointed out that Office of the Opposition Leader Sampanthan on the day after the meeting issued a statement repeating the accusation. The relevant section was brought to the notice of Samarasinghe, who assured that President Sirisena and the government were always ready to discuss problems.
The TNA on Tuesday alleged: “A serious situation pertaining to land prevails in the Mullaitivu District. A new system described as system “L” was proclaimed under the Mahaweli Act in the 1980s, even before any water from the Mahaweli came to that area. This was where a settlement known as “Welioya” or “Manalaaru” was created in that area comprising of persons from other districts of the country. Consequent to protests the programme was in suspension for some time. During the term of the previous government some further settlement of persons from outside took place in this area. There are numerous complains that the programme is thought to be renewed now and that there is a proposal to settle persons from outside of Mullaitivu in these lands.”
The Island also sought Samarasinghe opinion on the TNA assertion that for there to be reconciliation and national integration all land belonging to the people, which were now in the possession of the armed forces should be released without any further delay. Asked whether it would be fair to make such demands after having colluded with the LTTE until the very end in May 2009, Samarasinghe explained steps taken by successive governments to return land held by the military, release schools and places of religious worship.