Govt. giving poor man’s land to private sector – Sajith


By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP Deputy Leader and MP Sajith Premadasa yesterday alleged that over the last four years, the SLFP-led ruling coalition had handed over 26,600 hectares of land for various private projects at the expense of the farming community.

Premadasa warned of dire consequences unless the entire Opposition and civil society organisations got together to thwart UPFA plans to vest more State land in the private sector.

The project was ongoing and could deprive thousands or more families of fertile agricultural land, the MP said, placing the number of families so far affected directly and indirectly at 16,000 and 29,000, respectively.

Asked whether the UNP would launch a campaign against the government MP Premadasa said that he had got an opportunity to examine a comprehensive survey, which dealt with the utilisation of state-owned land. He would raise the issue both in and out of Parliament, though the media seemed not really interested in pursuing the matter, he said.

According to MP Premadasa Moneragala is the worst affected District with the government releasing 8,703 hectares for private projects since 2008. The private sector couldn’t have launched such large scale projects without the connivance of local politicians, he added. SLFP politicians at the highest level had been involved in these mega projects, Premadasa alleged, estimating the land released for private projects in Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee districts, at 6,110 and 6,230 hectares, respectively.

Premadasa said the government was planning to impose a controversial well water tax in spite of its denials. The lead story in last Monday’s issue of The Island which dealt with the issue had exposed the government, he said. "If there was no plan to impose well water tax, MEP leader and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena should have said so when The Island raised the issue with him. The Island quoted him as having opposed the move."

Referring to the PC polls in Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provinces on Oct. 8, 2012, MPPremadasa claimed that immediately after the conclusion of the elections, state-run banks had sent letters to those affected demanding the resumption of re-payment of loans, which were suspended in the run-up to the election. The MP recalled promises given by President Rajapaksa, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena and several other heavyweights to suspend repayment of loans until the next season.

Premadasa expressed shock and surprise that a sizeable section of the farming community continued to exercise their franchise in support of the UPFA, which had deceived them on many occasions.

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