By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Defence Ministry officials have handed out an affidavit and two other declarations to be signed by recipients of houses in Ranajayapura, where they have been expected to agree to the terms and conditions set out by the state.
The affidavit handed over to the soldiers and their families state that the recipients agree to the deduction of a sum of Rs. 4,000 from either the respective soldier’s salary or pension, on a monthly basis for a period of 200 months to cover the value of the house estimated at Rs. 800,000.
The affidavit states that the Defence Ministry under the Api Venuwen Api housing concept built the Ranajayapura housing complex for the soldiers.
The document also states that the recipient would agree to make the remaining payments for the house from any allowance or government payments after retirement following 12 years of service in the force.
Another clause in the affidavit states that if a recipient fails to meet the monthly payments for six consecutive months after retirement, the house would be taken over by the Defence Ministry.
The government has also handed out another document for married soldiers who have been allotted houses in the scheme.
One specific clause in the document states that if the recipient of the house passes away, either his spouse, child or any other beneficiary would be held responsible to make the monthly payment either from the deceased person’s allowance or any other form.
Soldiers who have received houses speaking on condition of anonymity said they had been on leave from June 28 to sort out matters related to the houses in Ranajayapura.
“The Defence Ministry officials called for a meeting at 3 p.m. on Monday (28) and gave us documents and an affidavit to sign saying that we will pay for the houses,” they said.
The soldiers said that they were not aware of having to make a payment for the house, as they were engaged in the battlefield when the scheme was launched.
“The houses have been built with government funds and now we have been asked to pay for it, adding that we will get ownership of the house only after 17 years after paying Rs. 800,000,” they said.
According to the soldiers, they were not properly informed of the procedure the government has now initiated in handing over the houses.
“These are houses built by the Api Venuwen Api Fund for the heroic soldiers who have fought the war and sacrificed their limbs and lives. People have donated money to these funds for the government to build houses for the soldiers. Now the government is asking us to pay for the houses. This is not right,” they said.
The government confirmed this fact in parliament last week when responding to an oral question posed by DNA Parliamentarian Ajith Kumara.
Ajith Kumara on Wednesday (30) posed a question to the Prime Minister and Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs Minister on the Api Venuwen Api Fund and projects undertaken by the fund.
Responding to the question, Chief Government Whip, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the fund, which was intimated in 2007, had received donations amounting to Rs. 733 million. He said the government had not put any money to the fund.
Gunawardena observed that the two housing projects have been launched by the Api Venuwen Api Fund in Kandy and Kurunegala each valued at Rs. 22 million.
The projects undertaken by the fund did not include the Ipalogama Ranajayapura housing scheme.
As for the monies remaining in the Api Venuwen Api Fund, the government responded that it currently had Rs. 689 million.