By Namini Wijedasa
Cabinet approval on a Resettlement Ministry paper to award 6,000 prefabricated houses to the war-affected of the North and East, was held up this week, after President Maithripala Sirisena sought further clarification.
Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan has been promoting the initiative of steel giant ArcelorMittal since 2015. Its logistics partner is Kumarca Engineering & Management (Pvt) Ltd, owned by controversial businessman Ravi Wettasinghe.
The Cabinet paper submitted on Tuesday by Minister Swaminathan mooted setting up 6,000 prefabricated steel frame houses, down from the initial 65,000 houses. Despite sustained opposition from civil society groups and the TNA, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEM) recently approved the amended proposal.
When it came before Cabinet on Tuesday, however, President Sirisena wanted to see the report of a Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee (CANC) that examined the terms and conditions of the project. The CANC, as previously published in the Sunday Times, has rejected the ArcelorMittal proposal and recommended that fresh tenders be called.