The leader of the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) highlighted the state’s failure to rebuild the North-East during the government’s second budget reading on November 21st, despite numerous interruptions by Sinhala politicians attempting to overturn the focus of his speech.
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam inaugurated his speech by paying his respects for Maaveerar Naal, a day in which Tamils around the world pay tribute to those who gave their lives for liberation.
“On the first day of the most sacred week in the Tamil political calendar, I bow my head in paying respects to those who paid their dear lives in fighting for the rights of the Tamil people and the liberation of the Tamil Nation,’’ said Ponnambalam. ‘‘When the thirty-years war came to an end, regardless of the fact that the ethnic question still stands, regardless of the fact that that the government and the military are accused of the most heinous crimes, at least on the question of development, one expected that this government would at least rebuild the economy in the North East.’’
‘‘The President and the Prime Minister have stated on numerous occasions that there is no ethnic problem in this country and that all problems can be solved through development, therefore, it was expected that this government would look into development in the North-East," he continued.
Ponnambalam emphasised the height of livelihood restrictions seen in the Tamil homeland preventing activities such as fishing and agriculture, ‘‘approximately 30 percent of the Jaffna district was under military control under the name of High Security Zone". "Vast tracks of land were no-go zones," he added. "Most of the agricultural lands in the North East were occupied as unauthorised areas for the people. That was the state that the Tamil people had to face for over 32 years.’’
The Tamil political leader went on to highlight the failure of the Rajapaksa government to develop the livelihoods of Tamils in the North-East. "It is the left’s cornerstone principle that vulnerable people must be protected, that vulnerable economies must be protected and built. The Prime Minister who is a leftist at heart should have made sure that vulnerable people who have faced a war situation for 32 years and their economy should have been protected but that has not been done. You have failed even on the question of development.’’
Ponnambalam was bombarded by incessant heckles from numerous politicians, including accused war criminal Sarath Fonseka who warned, ‘‘Don't forget what the LTTE has done’’, when the TNPF leader called on an international investigation into the war crimes committed by Sri Lankan government. Fonseka said ‘‘Both sides!’’ in response to the calls to which Ponnambalam replied, ‘‘Both sides! We are not shying away from that.’’
The ever-increasing Sinhalisation of the North-East was also underlined by the TNPF leader:
‘‘The government’s intention is to bring the North-East to a point where the Tamil people leave this country. Instead of building up the economy of the Tamils in the North-East, you are building infrastructure for colonisation to take place. The war affected North-East population is recovering; they are trying to pick up the pieces. They have been systematically driven away from their lands. When these people try to go back to their lands, it is this very same government that is preventing these people from toiling their land.’’