No more wars for Sri Lanka - Minister Ashraff
Housing and Common Amenities Minister and
National Unity Alliance Leader Ferial Ashraff in an interview said we do
not need any more wars. What ended was the last war. We need a
revolution of mind. We have responsibilities towards the country as
countrymen. We should think like one nation and one country, if we are
to chaange the destiny of Sri Lanka.
Following are extracts from the
Q - How could Muslim aspirations be
met in a political solution that follow the defeat of the LTTE?
A - Just like any other community, Muslims also have their own
aspirations. One is to be treated equally. No community in Sri Lanka
should be treated as second class citizens. All should have equal
rights. When talking about rights, here in Sri Lanka all talk only about
rights, not responsibilities.
We have responsibilities towards the country as countrymen. It is
very nice to talk about it theoretically but in real practice, we may
find it is very difficult to achieve all these.
Housing and Common Ammunities Minister Ferial Ashraff.
Picture by Sudath Nishantha
Since we had suffered for 30 long years, lost so many lives and shed
so much of blood I think this is high time that we change our attitudes.
We certainly have gone wrong somewhere. Otherwise this beautiful country
would not have gone through that much of agony.
When we go through the history of this country we can see that
politicians had brought laws merely for their own political gain. We
have to get over all those. No more wars for Sri Lanka.
We do not need any more wars. What ended was the last war. We need a
A revolution of the mind. Unless we attain that, the story could
continue to be sad.
Q - How can we march forward as one
country and one nation?
A - The whole problem comes in when we think as Sinhala,
Muslim, Tamil etc. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight
because it was there for over 30 years.
The question is what is national in Sri Lanka? Do we have anything
national in Sri Lanka? This is a question that bugs me a lot. Do we have
something called a National Vote or is it divided into caste, creed,
race and religion?
When we vote what do we look for in the candidate? Is it the ability
of the person to deliver something good for the country or is it his or
her caste, creed, race, religion etc?
As long as we have majorities and minorities we will not be able to
have anything national. This division should be changed in the future.
The plans are not only for the Muslim community. The plans are for the
whole country. If we can think like one nation and one country even at
this late juncture, we can change the destiny of Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was under enormous pressure while
eradicating terrorism from the country and he had to walk forward in the
middle of many hazards.
Q - What is the main responsibility
of your Ministry?
A - The main responsibility of the Ministry which I hold is to
facilitate and help the people to build a home for themselves. We donít
believe in building and handing over homes to them.
We find ways and means to save for a home and we get involved in
saving for a home. We also get the help of various community based
organisations and teams where they can learn how to save and how to
build a house. We provide all required technical assistance free of
charge. We also provide all the advice in relation to building a house.
We give them a very small amount of money to start the project.
One may wonder what can be done with such a small amount of money.
But the results of our program are excellent. We give this small amount
of money to families who had given up forever the hope of building a
house of their own.
When they receive our small financial assistance to start the
project, they get encouraged.
Because of this, we find that this is a very successful way of
assisting people to build their own homes.
But this is not so in the urban areas, especially in Colombo this
method is not applicable at all. Since Sri Lanka is a small island, the
land and space is very limited and especially in Colombo, people do not
have their own lands.
For that problem the Government has a totally different plan.
We are building housing complexes and apartment complexes in urban
areas. My main role is helping people in villages to build their own
houses in their own lands. Most of them live in shacks and we assist
them to have their own homes.
We are very happy with our progress. Apart from this, we have a
revolving loan scheme. The Ministryís budgetary allocation has been
going down steadily because of the just ended war. The priorities had to
be changed. We are now in the process of recovering loans which had been
given during the last couple of years.
The loans we have already given is similar to a Fund. Because of
these internal recoveries, we are capable of doing much even with a very
small amount of funds received from the budget.
The concept of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) came
during Minister Pieter Keunemanís time and late President R. Premadasa
gave a big boost to it. The NHDA has highly qualified and talented
This organisation is not just an office located in Colombo. It
reaches down to the grassroot level. It has facilities to send its
officers to any place located in difficult and remote areas.
This is a well experienced and very competent authority. Especially
after the tsunami the NHDA supported people immensely to build homes. It
was involved in building houses in the Eastern Province.
Q - Describe the progress made in the
housing sector under your leadership?
A - Sri Lanka has a long backlog every year. Nuclear families
are growing but space is not growing. But when you compare with most of
the other countries, Sri Lanka is doing much better than them. In future
we will need to build apartment complexes because of lack of land.
The NHDA is now in the process of preparing a ten year plan and
looking into the availability of land.
First time since the inception of the NHDA, it has put into an
inventory all the available lands belong to the NHDA.
So far the NHDA did not have a land inventory although it has many
lands all over Sri Lanka.
Another Ďfirstí achieved by the NHDA is the setting up of a proper
monitoring system to find out whether the families that obtained housing
loans actually built houses.
In the past housing loans had been given during election times but no
houses were built. But under this new system there is a name, address
and a house for every housing loan obtained from the NHDA.
The progress of the construction of each and every house will be
monitored. Therefore housing loans will be fruitful and there will be a
house built for every housing loan taken from the NHDA.