By Skandha Gunasekara and Gagani Weerakoon
TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran compared the newly implemented travel restrictions in the North to the era when the LTTE held sway in the province.
The recently imposed travel restriction to the North can be compared to those that were in place during the war, when the LTTE held military control over the north of the county, Sumanthiran said.
Speaking at Tuesday’s (28 Oct.) budget debate, Sumanthiran said that during the war, the now fallen LTTE Leader Prabhakaran controlled the North, a person needed to apply for a ‘visa’ to travel to that region. Today’s situation too necessitates a separate permit to travel to the North.
“During the time of the LTTE, people had to obtain a ‘visa’ to travel to the North. Now, years after the end of the war, the same situation is being repeated. Why is the government treating the North as a separate country?” he asked.
Sumanthiran explained that the government was enforcing restrictions in the North to create an atmosphere of unrest in that region and fool the masses in the South into believing that a terrorist threat prevails, and that only President Mahinda Rajapaksa could defeat terrorism.
“They (government) are trying to show that only they can defeat terrorism. Therefore by implementing travel restrictions to the North, similar to the time when the LTTE rule was prevalent in the region, they are portraying an image of unrest in the North to the masses in the South, to convince them that only Rajapaksa can defeat terrorism. This is an election gimmick to garner votes,” he said.
“Lankans who migrated to other countries during the war have become citizens of those countries. When they come back to Sri Lanka and want to travel to their homes in the North, they are forced to obtain special permits. Also, as they are refused dual citizenship and they cannot travel as Sri Lankans either,” Sumanthiran said.
Sumanthiran also said that although a suspension of the dual citizenship draft was in place, 1,300 persons had received dual citizen status.
“Of the 1,300 people who received dual citizenship, not one of them was a Tamil,” he alleged.
Sumanthiran said that those who fled the war by migrating to foreign countries, and who are now citizens of those countries, are not allowed to gain dual citizenship nor travel to the North.
He remarked that the government was treating the people of the North as if they were not Sri Lankan citizens.
Sumanthiran was reacting to a recent statement made by government, which said that foreigners travelling to the Northern Province must acquire a permit.
In Conclusion Sumanthiran said that the media had the responsibility of exposing what the budget attempted to conceal. The budget is an election manifesto.
“The people are not fooled. They are asking the same question; how is the government going to cover all the budget expenditure? The media must show the people what the budget really is; an election manifesto. Then, the people will realize the truth about the budget, “Sumanthiran said.