Is the State grossly underestimating the losses from the mob violence in Kandy?

By L. Zubair, C. Malge, F.Shakira, T. Hadgie, S. Rameezand A.Nijamdeen

Background

In March 2018, mob violence visited pockets in an East to West arc5-20 km North of Kandy. The state is obligated to ensure the safety of its citizens andit failed to do so.In spite of urgent warnings of impending violence and reassurances by senior officials,the Police were bystanders at critical junctures. Now, at minimum,the state is obligated to restore the property, health and well-being of the affected expeditiously. After 100 days, there is cause for alarm.

Map 1: The 20 Divisional Secretariats in Kandy are shown – with Hathariyadda and Tumpane combined. Violence started in Medadumbara (7), spread to Kundasale (5), and in the following day to PathaDumbara, and on the 4th day to to Pujapitiya, Harispattuwa, Akurana,  and Yatinuwara.

Soon after the violence, the victimswere assured by the Prime Minister, visiting Ministers, the Army commander, andofficials of full and quick restitution.  The Prime Minister urged that the rehabilitation be completed in 4 months. The Army commander assured that the buildings shall be rebuilt by the Army as the President shall release funds. However, after the initial debris clearance,the army has withdrawn, and little restitution by the state.

In mid-March,an initialcompensation amount was paid –one lakh for a destroyed business and half a lakh for a destroyed house. In all, about Rs. 10 million has been disbursed to the worst affected. For them, these  amounts are only helpful for getting through the days while displaced, for cleaning debris, or for going from office to office in search of redress.

Since early March, officials have been assessing losses and havemade victims understand that their assessmentshall form the basis of rehabilitation and restoration   by the state.  Below, we describe the available assessments and compare it  with that undertaken by civil society.

Damage Assessments by the State

At the local level, each of the affected Divisional Secretariats(DS) (Map 1) were tasked with estimating the damages.These DS  officers have visited the affected sites and summoned the affected multiple times and identified 622 victims due restitution. By May 1st they were able to assess properties of about 440 of those affected including 224 houses of 301, 119 businesses of 221, of 78 vehicles and 19 of 22 religious places.These assessments were stymied in several cases as the displaced do not have all the documentary evidence that the officials feel they need to accept a claim.  Since then the officials state that they have not completed fully completed the assessments and therefore do not want to release any information.

The DS division with the largest number of damaged buildings  and vehicles were Kundasale, Yatinuwara and Pujapitiya. The DS division with the largest loss estimates were Kundasale, Akurana, Pujapitiya and Medamahanuwara.

Damage Assessment by the Disaster Management Authorities

DSD ID DSD HOUSES (H) BUSINESS (B) VEHICLES (V) WORSHIP (W) H+B+V+W TOTAL H +B+W  TOTAL DAMAGES

 

VEHICLE  DAMAGE

ESTIMATES

0

Akurana

14/19

4/14

4/4

22/27

1,047,000

67000

13

Pujapitiya

16/22

10

2/15

28/47

1,330,050

7765000

18

Yatinuwara

0/2

3/6

0

/114

357,000

0

4

Harispattuwa

88/101

17/32

17/32

58

603,000

701500

11

Pathadumbara

30/35

7/11

7/11

15

3,007,000

203000

5

Kundasale

71/106

71

80/122

151

1,200,000

630000

7

Medadumbara

0

5

2/5

9

7,918,000

0

6

Mahanuwara

2/13

13

2/17

2

357,515

0

12

PathaHewaheta

0

1

1/1

1

7,320

0

 

KANDY

224/301

119/221

78

19/22

440/622

18,828,000

9,896,500

Table 1: Loss estimates compiled by the Kandy District Disaster Management Authorities. The fraction shows the assessed cases/ total cases.

These tabulations at the DS level were compiled by the District Disaster Management officials and forwarded it to the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation. In the case of the up to 21 mosques and 1 temple they communicated the assessment to the Ministries of Muslim Religious Affairs and Buddha Sasana respectively.

By May 1, their aggregate estimate of loss for these 440 cases was Rs. 28 million.Anyone who has seen photographs of the damage and has any idea of construction costs locally will know that such  an aggregate is ridiculous. This value may go up as some of the more difficult assessments are pending. However, the estimates so far are far too low.

After the initial release of information on May 1, state officials have been unwilling to release updates even at aggregate scales. In addition, even many of the victims are not provided with the state’s estimate of their own losses.  The victims are not in a position to complain as they need the blessings of  these local officials for managing basic functions .

Damage Assessments by Civil Society

There has been a community effort to put together assessments of damages so as to facilitate disbursing private donations to take care of the most urgent needs until the state delivers. The assessments were done by volunteers and civil society groups.They compiled the estimates through interviews, site visits, expert inputs and peer review.  As there is a common pool of limited funds to be disbursed there are checks and balances to the process. The total estimate that this effort has come up with for 292 cases is a billion rupees.

Damage Assessment by Civil Society

DSD ID DSD HOUSES (H) BUSINES (B) VEHICLES (V) WORSHIP TOTAL H+B

ESTIMATE

VEHICLE  DAMAGE ESTIMATE

0

Akurana

6

14

5

4

29

168,280,000

5,232,000

13

Pujapitiya

0

10

4

2

16

122,290,000

18

Yatinuwara

2

6

0

0

3

1,676,000

4

Harispattuwa

56

0

3

59

18,407,000

11

Pathadumbara

12

0

0

3

15

800,000

5

Kundasale

76

71

4

4

151

689,000,000

5,951,800

7

Medadumbara

0

9

0

0

9

37,504,000

2,559,000

6

Mahanuwara

0

0

0

2

2

50,000

 

 

KANDY

152

110

13

18

288

979,123,000

13,742,900

Table 2: Loss estimates compiled by civil society. Note 292 cases were compiled compared with 440 of the state. Although half as many cases were assessed by the Civil Society,its estimate is 50 fold more.

Lessons and Next Steps

  1. Notwithstanding the assurances that reconstruction shall be completed within 4 months, with two weeks to go, even the assessments have not been not completed. The causes of delay – such as delays at particular offices, or lack of skills or procedures and policies that unduly delay- should be documented and understood so that it can be mitigated.
  2. Given the lack of transparency, as best we can make out the state apparatus has under-estimated the losses by around 10-50 fold.
  3. These gross under-estimates will lead to
  • profound losses for the affected with long-term impacts of alienation and bitterness
  • a lack of deterrence against future mob violence  by the state
  • accomplishment of the goals of the mob leaders encourage similar future enterprises
  1. The  reasons for delays and under-estimates have to be documented, understood and rectified
  • officialshave not been transparent  –concealing information or erecting barriers to avoid criticism should not beviable.
  • The reasons adduced for under assessment – such as low assessments for taxes or insurance needs to be countered. The abiding principle has to be the restoration of the property of the victims.
  • Some assessments are delayed and lowered because many have lost ID cards,  deedsand other records from violence. As done by civil society, other methods have to be found. In any case, the state owes these victims much more than just compensation for documentable property damage.
  • Empathetic officials who are fluent in Tamil have to be brought in  particularly tohelp most female victims.
  • Many of the affected need assistance with dealing with officials and support through psycho-social counseling.
  • There should be an ombudsman to advocate for the victims.
  1. The citizenry, civil societyand the media should push for
  • transparency
  • quick rectifications of inadequate assessments or alternative the state should take over reconstruction and replacement of properties
  • expediting the reconstruction and
  • to publicize the obvious shortcomings in processes.

Given the Army’s demonstrated ability in Alutgama to bulldoze red-tape, and get around the shortcomings of officialdom including in assessments, the Commanders initial willingness  to rebuild if tasked should be taken up.

  1. The larger lessons, and long-term social impacts have to be documented
  • The promised Presidential Commission of three retired judges is essential
  • The National Police Commissionmust release  reports from itself and the Police
  • The Human Rights Commissionshould release its report and follow up
  • A fuller accounting of the societal, commercial, livelihood and national damage is needed.

If these steps are not taken then the state shall not acknowledge  the costs passed on to the victims and endured more generally. Nor is there a platform to promote accountability, to identify the bottlenecks, reforms of institutions and policies, recognition of the grave underlying problems, and the enabling a healthier engagement of the citizen and the state. Absent such reform mob violence shall recur as entrepreneurship in extremism that leads to violence has a viable business model in Sri Lanka.

1 Comment for “Is the State grossly underestimating the losses from the mob violence in Kandy?”

  1. Dr M Fernando

    What was the cause for this violence and who was responsible ?? Any police arrests ?? Any investigation into this violence ??

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