A Call for Community Consultations before proceeding with the 65,000 Housing Project

We further request the Government to commence such community consultations as a matter of urgency on what type of housing the war affected communities are seeking. Such community consultations will highlight pressing issues such as landlessness and solutions to resolve issues arising through owner driven housing.
We further reiterate to use the Rs. 136 billion that is the estimated cost of the current project for housing wisely and expand the housing units to cover the total need in the North and East. It is our understanding, a house in these regions will need approximately Rs. 800, 000 to Rs. 1,000,000 for construction. Hence the project cost on the order of Rs. 136 billion is sufficient to cover the housing needs of the war affected population amounting to 137, 000 houses.
We further request the Government, that if in the event the units of housing cannot be increased, to invest this sum in promoting small scale industries and income generation activities which would boost the local economy and uplift communities.

According to a needs assessment done by the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, approximately 137,000 houses are needed in the war affected Northern and Eastern provinces to fulfill the needs of these communities. In this context, it was a welcoming sign that the Cabinet of the Government of Sri Lanka, approved a project financing 65,000 houses in November 2015.
However, as highlighted in a recent press article and a civil society statement, the irregularities in the bidding process and the rushed manner in which a project of this magnitude is being taken forward is deeply worrying. The Sunday Times article on the 17th of January highlights that months before the Cabinet approval, it was known by the Ministry that a ‘French Company’ would construct the houses. It states further the time frame given for the submission of proposals was less than a month, while the requirements for the contract was changed after the proposal submissions were received. Though the Minister has stated that the contract has not been awarded, other sources have confirmed that the contract is to be given to a French steel company called ArcelorMittal.
The houses will have steel structures and prefabricated panels. Each house is expected to cost around Rs. 2.1 million, almost four times the amount allocated for the previous housing projects. For 65,000 houses that is a total of Rs. 136 billion (almost 1 billion dollars). For such a massive project there has been no consultation at the community level. Even high ranking Government Officers within the districts seem to be left in the dark on arguably the only substantial investment the new Government has made in the post-war Districts.
We request the Government to consider the following as a matter of urgency before embarking on this development initiative.
A housing project of this magnitude, must be structured in a manner that can stimulate the local economy. Indeed, the post-war regions are in crisis due to the lack of employment opportunities and local production. Large housing projects -as with the Indian and other housing schemes- created demand for local labour and in the process provided livelihoods; particularly in the context of falling demand for labour in agriculture and fisheries due to problems in those sectors. Furthermore, a well-planned housing project can stimulate small industries in the production of bricks, roofing and house-fittings, creating further local employment. These are only possible if the scheme is owner driven / community driven and not contractor driven.
In the past, owner driven projects too have created many social issues including indebtedness and exploitation of vulnerable persons in a community, due to bad planning and implementation. Harsh lessons were learnt from previous projects including the underestimation of actual cost of construction in the locality where houses are built. Any new housing project must take into consideration such lessons and find alternatives to burdening an individual on driving the construction process. Encouraging community driven initiatives, where houses are built through collective pooling of resources as oppose to individual efforts, could have prevented some of these consequences. Housing projects have catered only to those who possessed land and/or houses which were destroyed during the conflict. The issue of landlessness which left the most deserving and marginalized without the prospect of acquiring housing assistance is another serious concern which must be addressed. The most important lesson learnt is the paramount importance of community consultations of the war-affected people before a housing project is formulated for them.
A house is something which is built once in a life time. It is not just four walls, but a space in which a home is created and families are nurtured. The vision of the Resettlement Ministry is to create a ‘Satisfied Community of Resettled People’. We urge the Government to stay true to this vision.
We call upon the Government to keep the project on hold until the respective war-affected communities of various localities are consulted. We further request the Government to commence such community consultations as a matter of urgency on what type of housing the war affected communities are seeking. Such community consultations will highlight pressing issues such as landlessness and solutions to resolve issues arising through owner driven housing.
We further reiterate to use the Rs. 136 billion that is the estimated cost of the current project for housing wisely and expand the housing units to cover the total need in the North and East. It is our understanding, a house in these regions will need approximately Rs. 800, 000 to Rs. 1,000,000 for construction. Hence the project cost on the order of Rs. 136 billion is sufficient to cover the housing needs of the war affected population amounting to 137, 000 houses.
We further request the Government, that if in the event the units of housing cannot be increased, to invest this sum in promoting small scale industries and income generation activities which would boost the local economy and uplift communities.
It is the duty of the Government to ensure that concerns of the war-affected populations are considered through consultations before proceeding further with this project. Otherwise this costly project to the country which is meant as a progressive policy of reconstruction may result in further alienation rather than integration of the war-torn people.

Signatories :
1. A. Sujinthar – Jaffna Social Action Center
2. Ahilan Kadirgamar – Collective for Economic Democratisation
3. Ajanee Pratheepan – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
4. Amali Wedagedara – Open University of Sri Lanka
5. Amila de Mel
6. Anuratha Rajaretnam – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
7. Anushaya Collure
8. Asha Mariyathas – Member of the Social Movement, Jaffna
9. Gowthaman
10. Kiruthika – Jaffna Social Action Center
11. B. Thiruaruran – Jaffna Social Action Center
12. Buddhima Padmasiri – Researcher
13. Camena Guneratne – Open University of Sri Lanka
14. Chulani Kodikara
15. Danesh Karunanayake – University of Peradeniya
16. Dayapala Thiranagama
17. Dhanuka Bandara – Centre for Poverty Analysis
18. Dilini Hemachandra – University of Peradeniya
19. Dinesha Samararatne – University of Colombo
20. Elangeswary Arunasalam – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
21. Farzana Haniffa – University of Colombo
22. G. C. Ranitha – Attorney-at-Law, Colombo
23. Geethika Dharmasinghe – PhD candidate
24. Gino – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
25. Godfrey Yogarajah – Executive Director, Alliance Development Trust
26. Harini Amarasuriya – Open University of Sri Lanka
27. Hemalatha Kathirkamanathan – Women’s Action Network, Jaffna
28. Indika Arulingam – Researcher
29. Inthirani – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
30. J. E. C. A. Uthayakumar – Jaffna Social Action Center
31. Jayashanthini Winifred – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
32. K. Ramanaskandha – Jaffna Social Action Center
33. K. Spelmala – Jaffna Social Action Center
34. K. Thanikasalam
35. K.A.Jayaratne – President, Sevanatha, Urban Resource Centre
36. Kalyani suntharalingam – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
37. Kayathry Yasothanan – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
38. Kirupa Hoole
39. Krishnakumar – Retired Senior Registrar, University of Jaffna
40. Krishnaveni Manoharan – Managing Partner, m/s Manoharan & Vettivel
41. Kurushanthan Mahaluxmy – Mannar Women’s Development Federation
42. Lakmali Hemachandra – Attorney-At-Law
43. M. Mangaleswary Shanker – Attorney-At-Law
44. M. Ramathasan – Engineer, Euroville
45. M. Rifadh – A/L Student and Member of the Social Movement
46. M. Sooriyasegaram – Jaffna Manager’s Forum
47. M. Thillainathan – Consulting Engineer
48. Mahendran Thiruvarangan
49. Malathy – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
50. N. Mathanaruby – Jaffna Social Action Center
51. N. Nantharupan – Engineer / Sarukaya Construction
52. N. Sukirtharaj – Jaffna Social Action Center
53. N. Thamilalagan
54. Nalayini Francis – Programme Coordinator, YWCA
55. Niyanthini Kadirgamar – Researcher, Jaffna
56. Noylin Judith – Member of the Social Movement, Jaffna
57. P. M. Mujeebur Rahman – Journalist, Mannar
58. P. Vasanthagowry – Teacher
59. Piyal Ganepola – Engineer
60. Priyan Dias – University of Moratuwa
61. R. Marine Shanka – Jaffna Social Action Center
62. R. Prashanthy – Jaffna Social Action Center
63. Rajan Hoole
64. Rajany Chandrasegaram – Feminist, Jaffna
65. Ranil D. Guneratne – Department of Chemistry, University of Colombo
66. Rev.Fr. I. D. Dixon – Coordinator, Jaffna Inter-Religious Group
67. Ruki Fernando
68. S. Arivalzahan – University of Jaffna
69. S. C. C. Elankovan
70. S. Gobidharsan – Jaffna Social Action Center
71. S. Hasbullah – University of Peradeniya
72. S. Mehala – Jaffna Social Action Center
73. S. Mohanadas – J/Ariyalai Citizens
74. S. Pirisanth – Jaffna Social Action Center
75. S. Rodric Arudselvam – SOND
76. S. Seethalaxmy – Treasurer, Amara Widows’ Society
77. S. Tharshan – Member of the Social Movement
78. S. Yoganathan – Centre for Child Development
79. Sarala Emmanuel – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
80. Sathy Kulasingham
81. Setheeswary Yogathas – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
82. Shamala Kumar – University of Peradeniya
83. Shreen Abdul Saroor – Mannar
84. Somesasundary Krishnakumar – Senior Lecturer, University of Jaffna
85. Sr. Nichola Emmanuel – Child Development Initiative
86. Sugerthini – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
87. Sumanthi – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
88. Sumathy Sivamohan – University of Peradeniya
89. Sumi – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
90. Swasthika Arulingam – Attorney-At-Law
91. T. Sayenthirakumar – Jaffna Social Action Center
92. Tharmalingam Sriprakas – Teacher
93. Thissanthini Thiruchelvam – Member of the Social Movement, Jaffna
94. Usha – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
95. V. Shamini – PA Probation
96. V. Sinthuka – Jaffna Social Action Center
97. V. Sutharsan – Jaffna Social Action Center
98. Vane – Afflicted Women’s Forum, Akkaraipattu
99. Vanie simon – Ampara
100. Vasuki Rajasingham – Teacher
101. Venushri Puvanendran – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
102. Vijay Kumar N
103. Vijayaletsumi Segaruban – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa
104. Vino – Jaffna
105. Yasothanan Krishnapillai – Suriya Women’s Development Centre, Batticaloa

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