Govt. to study TNA proposal for diaspora investment

The Tamil National Alliance’s proposal to establish a North-East Development Fund, to which the Tamil Diaspora could contribute directly, will need further hammering out, with Justice Minister Ali Sabry likely to discuss the technicalities.

“It has to go through normal Sri Lankan channels, including banking, not anything outside of them,” Mr Sabry told the Sunday Times. “Even after the war, we gave certain incentives so there could be similar tax holidays and probably Government land on long-term lease if they invest there, for instance. It has been done in different parts of the world and country also, if you go to a denominated area or areas identified for investment, like Board of Investment zones.”

“It was not an agreement at all,” a senior source from the President’s Office said. “The idea was floated and we agreed to discuss it. The mechanics have to be worked out. Mr Ali Sabry will discuss it further with the TNA before bringing it to Cabinet.”

“Although the discussion was about a special fund, the idea is that the Diaspora was willing to invest in the North and East,” he continued. “At the moment, they have invested in other parts of the country quite a lot, for instance in apartments. It will be looked at how they can do that kind of thing–whether there will be tax rebates and special mechanisms. There was no finality.”

The proposal was among four matters that were discussed when the TNA delegation led by its leader R. Sampanthan met the President at the Presidential Secretariat on Friday. This was the first occasion the two sides had held face-to-face talks in more than two years.

Other issues discussed at the meeting included the early release of Tamil prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), TNA Spokesman M A Sumanthiran said.

As an initial step, the Government has agreed to look at releasing 48 inmates convicted under the PTA and have spent more than 10 years in prison. The TNA also raised issue over alleged use of Tamil lands in the North and East for military purposes and called for an immediate end to the practice.

The TNA also stressed on the need for a fair and impartial inquiry into how persons who had surrendered to the security forces and those who were arrested subsequently went missing. The Government has offered Rs 100,000 to each family but this offer has been rejected by an organisation representing them.

The President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement that discussions focused on further steps to be taken regarding those in long-term detention, release of lands previously used for cultivation, investigation of missing persons, amendments to the new Constitution after translating it into Tamil and Sinhala, and the establishment of a North-East Development Fund.

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