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Attempt To Derail Uma Oya Relief Mechanism

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

An attempt is being made to derail the Uma Oya relief measures. The Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) organisation has written to the President and the Home Affairs Ministry Secretary regarding the actions of the Badulla Government Agent (GA) Nimal Abeysiri.

In the letter to the Home Affairs Ministry Secretary Neil de Alwis, CaFFE points out that the government should mediate and provide relief to those affected by the Uma Oya project.

The Badulla GA, Nimal Abeysiri states that those affected by the Uma Oya project have been paid compensation. Yet, the Executive Director of CaFFE Keerthi Tennakoon stated that had the people received the due compensation, they would not be protesting.

On July 28, Nihal Gunaratne was appointed as the Additional Government Agent (AGA) on the instructions of the President’s Secretary in order to further look into the issue and expedite the Uma Oya relief mechanism. Yet, to date his appointment has not been made.

The Ella, Haldamulla Divisional Secretaries have been transferred without successors being appointed and the GA is attempting to create a huge administrative muddle.

There is no one who has benefitted by the Uma Oya relief mechanism to date. The allowance payable to the Government Assessor’s officers alone is around Rs. 4.6 million.

The GA has so far failed to pay them this due. Instead he has diverted these payments to the Mahaweli Ministry. Furthermore no one has yet received the additional rent allowance as well. Meanwhile, the farmers of Welimada, Uwa-Paranagama and Haliela have still not received their crop compensation in four seasons. This GA’s sole intention it seems, is to deprive the farmers of their ability to cultivate this season too despite the onset of rains.

Not a single tube well has been built in the Ella and Bandarawela areas so far. Yet millions have been spent on water bowsers. The worst drought hit areas have only received around 4000 water tanks but to date water has not been provided to these helpless people. Yet they are now preparing to purchase a further 2700 water tanks. The tube well project that commenced under the directives of the president was stalled on the GA’s assurance that water from Demodara would be provided to them from August 15

However, to date no bowser points have been constructed to fill water to the bowsers.  These have been notified earlier and what the people want is water and not mere empty water tanks. But the Badulla GA and his chief of staff does not seem to understand this. The people who have been victims of the Uma Oya project have had their dreams of compensation shattered and have not received any benefit from the Rs. 600 million allocated for them, all because of the actions of the Badulla GA.

A group of farmers have built a statue of public servant Norman Gunatillake in honour of his services to make them the highest earning group of farmers in the Uva province. Depriving the people of allocations made for their benefit is a grievous crime. Therefore it is high time that the President focusses his attention on resolving the issues faced by the people affected by the Uma oya project and providing them some solace.

Badulla Government Agent Nimal Abeysiri denied the allegations raised against him.  Abeysiri told The Sunday Leader Rs. 500 million had been allocated for the families affected by the Uma Oya project and the funds had been distributed.

He also said that measures are being taken to distribute 8,000 water tanks and also to open an office to provide more relief to the affected families.

Abeysiri furthermore noted that Uma Oya is only a small part of the bigger problem faced by Badulla.

He said that 69 per cent of Badulla is not stable owing to the many rivers flowing beneath. He said that if the issue is not addressed, a major problem could arise.

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