(Text of speech made in Parliament by TNA Jaffna District Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran on 01st September 2022 during the interim budget debate)
நன்றி பிரதித் தவிசாளர் அவர்களே, எனக்கு முன்னதாக பேசிய அமைச்சர் யாழ்ப்பாண பிரதேசத்திலே வெங்காய உற்பத்தியைப் பற்றிச் சொன்னார், மண்ணெண்ணெய் அவர்களுக்கு கொடுக்க வேண்டும் என்று பேசினார், ஆனால் இன்றைக்கு இரண்டு மாதங்களுக்கு மேலாக மண்ணெண்ணெய் இல்லாமல் அவஸ்தை படுகிறார்கள். விவசாயிகள் நீர் இறைக்கிற இயந்திரத்திற்கு மண்ணெண்ணெய் இல்லாமல் அவஸ்தை படுகிறார்கள், மீனவர்கள் கடலுக்கு செல்வதற்கு தமது படகு இயந்திரங்களுக்கு மண்ணெண்ணெய் இல்லாமல் அவஸ்தை படுகிறார்கள். இந்த விடயத்தை எவ்வளவு தடவைகள் எடுத்துக் கூறியும் அதற்கு எந்தவிதமான பதிலும் கிடைக்கவில்லை, கிடைத்த ஒரேயொரு பதில், 87 ரூபாவாக இருந்த மண்ணெண்ணெய் 340 ரூபாவாக 253 ரூபாவினாலே அதிகரிக்கப்பட்டதாக வந்த அறிவிப்பு. அறிவிப்பு மட்டும் தான், மண்ணெண்ணெய் வரவில்லை. மண்ணெண்ணெய் விலை அதிகரிப்பு அறிவிப்பு தான் வருகிறது அனால் மண்ணெண்ணெய் வரவில்லை.
முன்பதாக மீன்பிடி அமைச்சர் பேசினார், பானையில் இருக்கின்ற நண்டுகள் பற்றியெல்லாம் பேசினார், அவர் ஏதோ ஒரு உலகத்திலே இருக்கிறார், கொதிக்கிற பானையில் நண்டு விழுந்து சாகுதாம், வெளியால் பாய்ந்து சாகுதாம் என்று தன்னுடைய நிலையைப்பற்றி உருக்கமாக பேசிவிட்டு சென்றிருக்கிறார். ஆனால் கஷ்டப்படுகிற விவசாயிக்கும் கடற்றொழிலாளிக்கும் எந்த நிவாரணமும் கொடுக்கப்படவில்லை. இந்த வரவு செலவு திட்டத்தில் கூட, இந்த இடைக்கால வரவு செலவு திட்டத்தில் கூட ஒரு முன்மொழிவு இருக்கின்றது, மண்ணெண்ணெய் பாவிப்பவர்களுக்கு நிவாரணம் கொடுப்பதாக ஒரு முன்மொழிவு இருக்கின்றது. ஆனால் ஒதுக்கீட்டைப் பார்த்தால் ஒரு சதம் கூட அதற்கு ஒதுக்கப்படவில்லை.
There’s a subsidy that has been promised for kerosene, but no funds have been allocated, zero rupees have been allocated for that. This is in contrast to 46,000 billion that has been allocated for social safety net. We welcome that, in contrast I can site the health allocation, 248 billion a 3 % increase for health allocation, so what is in words as promised in the budget proposals you can also see it in rupees.
I am just contrasting that, with the promise to grant relief to kerosene users, yet no allocation is made. Now this is significant because the whole approach of this government is to silence the middle class and upper – middle class. So you are making petrol available now, you are making super diesel available now, but diesel is in short supply, and there is no kerosene.
Your priority must be the other way around- you must address the needs of those who need it most. Not the upper middle class. But you are doing that because you think, if you silence the upper middle class, then you can get by with blue murder- blue murder is what is happening around the country all round, every day we here of shooting; people being shot dead here, there, everywhere. Police are not investigating any of those crimes.
Police in their thousands are deployed to stifle genuine peoples’ protest, when there are 500 people marching there are about 1000 policemen who go to stop that protest. Tear gas is used water cannons are used, and now, low-and behold, the PTA is used.
Detention orders under the PTA have been signed by the President himself, he normally signs in English but these detention orders he has signed in Sinhala for some reason. Ordinarily he signs in English, we are familiar with his signature. But these three detention orders that he has signed, he has signed in Sinhala. Is there a change in personality?
Is he appealing to some sections in the country by now beginning to sign in Sinhala and that too on detention orders?
Now this economic recovery and your manner of governance have a strong connection. If a beggar comes to my door step and beg for food for his children, I’ll be compelled to give some money. He might come regularly – get some money and go. But the day I find out that he is using that money to get drunk and go home and beat up his wife and children, naturally I will stop giving him money after that.
So that’s what the international community also does. You scream here saying “how can you stop giving us money?” you can’t prescribe to us human rights standards ect… no you can. If you find that the money is being misused, or you are oppressing other people in this country, surely those countries will not lend you money.
I must say something else also, we are all glad that there had been a staff level agreement reached with the IMF. The government announced that, well and good. But as soon as the government announced it, this is what the IMF issued – A statement; and I quote “the new staff level agreement is subject to the approval of IMF management and the executive board in the period ahead, contingent on the implementation by the authorities of prior actions including financial assurances from Sri Lanka’s official creditors, this is contingent on something, it is not done yet, we hope it’ll be done.
But you have an obligation, you have to first perform that, budget needs to be consistent with the economic reform programme and macro-economic framework underlying by the IMF. So this is a statement that had been issued, similarly the government was heard the last couple of days saying Japan was going to lead a conversation with a group of countries to assist Sri Lanka with regard to bridging finance.
We all thought, OK that’s a good thing, but now we have Japan saying “No, we never agreed to that” we never agreed to do that.
So I think the President when he became the Prime minister came on national television and said I will not hide anything from the people, I will tell you the truth- but now that is blurring a little. That has started to blur, you are not telling the whole truth. You are now beginning to tell the people what they like to hear, what we also like to hear.
But that’s not the whole truth. You using the PTA against unarmed protesters will definitely impact on the economic recovery of this country, and that’ll impact on the poor people of the country mostly, not the upper middle class whom you have silenced by giving petrol. Not the upper middle class whom you think you have silenced by giving super diesel.
So you need to re think your priorities. You can’t have it both ways; you can’t have a government that is indulging in oppressing people’s legitimate protest, also seeking financial assistance. The interim budget deficit has increased by 43% to the one we approved in November last year. In November last year we approved a deficit of 1,600 billion. The interim budget that has been now proposed by the Finance minister cum President the deficit is 2,300 billion an 85 % of that is to be supplied by revenue from the country itself and that is why you have increased the VAT rate.
I heard these speakers in the government saying we complained about reducing the VAT rate, yes we complained, that was one of the main causes for this economic crisis from 15% to 7 % but the answer doesn’t lie in increasing it back to 15 % after the country has fallen into this debt. And after the people have been subjected to all the hardship and the economic deprivement that they have been subjected to, that is not the answer, so the interim budget only heaps more misery on people .
There are some good aspects with regard to relief, Samurdi recipients numbers being added 726,000 more and all of that but all that is taken away by an increase in VAT 3% which is an indirect tax that all will have to bear. Therefore increasing the deficit and hoping to supply that deficit through local revenue is not the answer. You have to comply with International Human rights standards if you are to really to get relief from the international community.