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Text of the speech of Prof Rajiva Wijesinha,  MP on the Votes of the Ministry of Resettlement at the Committee Stage of the Budget Debate – 29 Nov 2012

Mr Speaker, the work of the Ministry of Resettlement is of crucial importance, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the subject. Sri Lanka has implemented perhaps the most successful programme of Resettlement in the world, and the manner in which we have developed infrastructural facilities for people who were deprived of all development for so long should be presented as a model for other countries in similar situations.

In this context I was saddened by the misleading statements of the member for Jaffna from Colombo who spoke before me, and was clearly more concerned about Colombo issues than Resettlement. I will not say that she misled the House, because I think she has misled herself, but if she visited areas such as Puthukudiyirippu as often as I have done, she would realize that what she had said is nonsense. The PTK schools have been very well equipped, and that at Kachilamadu will benefit from project funding in a way few schools have done. I could only wish that she would use some of her decentralized budget to improve actual education there. I have done this, and vocational training at higher levels will begin soon in a couple of schools in the Mullaitivu District, and I could only wish that Jaffna and Colombo representatives did even half as much for areas that had been so long deprived in the North.

But perhaps I should not blame her for her ignorance of the ground situation. That is a field in which government could have done more. Systematic presentation of what we did, with exposition also of the financial input of the Sri Lanka government, the creative involvement of our armed forces, the excellent coordination of the Governors and the Government Agents in the North and East, should have been highlighted. It is not too late, I hope, to make use of the reporting tool created by the United National Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to record Sri Lankan inputs too. This should be done at Divisional Secretariat level, because that is the unit through which progress can be seen most clearly.

It is also the unit through which we can register clearly what more remains to be done. For this reason our records of the past should be accompanied by informed assessment of the gaps that need to be filled. That is why, Mr Speaker, we need this Ministry to continue with its work, though some have argued that, with Resettlement almost completed, it could be wound up. On the contrary, we must now build on our achievements, and ensure that those who are resettled, and also those who remain to be resettled, are fully empowered to contribute to their own development as well as the development of the country.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

December 2012
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