The Sunday Leader

Three Months After Explosion Salawa Victims Still Waiting For Compensation

by Dilhan Wimalka

Salawa Explosion

No one has to be reminded about the horrors of the explosion that wrecked the lives of the residents of Salawa. The poor villagers who lost their homes and belongings from the explosion that took place at the Salawa Army camp are still waiting for the authorities to do justice for their losses.

Over 115 days have already lapsed since the explosion. During this time period we cannot say that the government has not done anything regarding the Salawa issue. But from the complaints that are coming from the people, it is quite clear that what has been done is not enough.

The people of Salawa asked the government to give them back their houses, furniture, livestock and businesses that were destroyed by the explosion. Speaking at the parliament, the Prime Minister promised to rebuild respectable houses for all those who had lost their houses and to get the businessmen back on their feet. Although the Prime Minister’s gesture is admirable, unfortunately it has not yet realised on the ground.

After the blast, the government intervened in the reconstruction drive and got the army to repair the houses that were partly damaged. Most of the roofs were covered with sheets. The government even promised the residents that they would be given an allowance of Rs. 50,000 up to three months. They kept this promise for two months. Although the victims have received the compensation for the months of June and July, they have so far not received the compensation due for August. It is now over a month overdue. Under the categorisation of minor, partial and total damages, the government has taken steps to compensate for the minor and partial damages, and after a group of minor and partial damage victims had appealed for their compensation, the government had given them the second month’s installment, but not the first or the third.

The government has decided to pay the compensation for partial and total damaged houses as well as businesses under an installment scheme. Accordingly the officials of the valuation department had valued one sq.feet of these houses at Rs.1800 to 1900. Usually a house that is built using cement and bricks costs between Rs. 2500 to 5000 per sq. feet. But the money that has been paid to the residents in Salawa as compensation is not enough for them to rebuild their houses, many residents complained.


Rebuilding houses

The valuation officials have decided to value the thatched houses and brick built houses on different scales. But there seem to be a massive difference between these two levels of valuations.

The owner of a thatched house cannot build a thatched house again. He is compelled to follow modern technology. When compared with houses that had been built many years ago, at present the cost to build a house has skyrocketed. So they undoubtedly are forced to hire masons who charge higher wages to build the house. But the government has not done anything to address this issue.

The valuation officials have prepared the estimates only after deducting all the contributions that had been made by the army in repairing the house as well as the roofing sheets. For an example if the damage of the house valued at 5 lakhs and the roof has been repaired by the army for an estimated cost of Rs. 2 lakhs, then the owner of the house would be getting only 3 lakhs.

Apart from the houses in the “Ranaviru Gama”, most of the houses that have been repaired by the army have not been fully repaired. In most occasions the army had only helped the residents to repair the roofs with sheet or tiles. Although the government claims that they had not deducted the expenses of the army from the compensation, the villagers complain otherwise. Most of the businessmen who had lost their shops have also accused the government of not giving them fair compensation.

Meanwhile the villagers also accuse that some people had used their political influence to get the valuation officials to make estimates in their favor. Residents say that some have even been able to obtain compensation higher than the actual value of their damages. However, it has now become evident that the residents in the area would have to wait at least for another year before these issues are resolved.

The businessmen in Salawa are also blaming the government for not taking any step to provide economic relief to those who have suffered from this destruction. To this day the government valuation department has failed to submit valuations for the merchandise that was destroyed in the explosion. Although several banks had previously decided not to collect the monthly installments of loans up to three months for humanitarian reasons, at present they have been issued notices to repay the debts. Unfortunately, the ministers who are imposing taxes to rebuild the economy have forgotten to save these businessmen from facing disgrace due to no fault of their own. So far no step has been taken to pay compensation neither for the businessmen in the area nor for the vehicles that were destroyed. The victims have already made a complaint about this to the human rights commission and the matter is currently being investigated.

The government must be constantly reminded about its duty towards the victims of Salawa devastation as it was no natural calamity that had made them suffer. It is the inefficiency of the government officials that had caused the people in Salawa to suffer for more than three months.

The time has come for the politicians of the country to draft a policy plan to help the residents of Salawa. Accordingly the government must issue necessary circulars ordering the officials to provide necessary aid as soon as possible. Rather than entertaining the public at the parliament, the government must act swiftly to prevent the situation in Salawa from going bad to worse.

1 Comment for “Three Months After Explosion Salawa Victims Still Waiting For Compensation”

  1. S B Lokuge

    It was obvious to all the patriots the government is behind this explosion just to please the international community which supports the Tamil diaspora. This treacherous also dumped huge quantities ammunition and shells in the deep sea. These traitors will be dumped by the people soon.

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