politics of post-tsunami renaissance
By D. B. S. Jeyaraj
Chandrika Kumaratunga was forced to cut
short her holiday in Britain because of the tsunami disaster
and returned to Sri Lanka. One of her foremost tasks......
spills more beans
of the NGOs over tsunami spoils
playing for high post - tsunami stakes
honeymoon nearing an end
yet to request permission for adoption
attention to gender issues in the face of tsunami
tsunami hits Surveyor General's Dept.
wake up call to Lanka
deadline to CBK and internal battles
politics of post-tsunami renaissance
By D. B. S. Jeyaraj
Chandrika Kumaratunga was forced to cut
short her holiday in Britain because of the tsunami disaster
and returned to Sri Lanka. One of her foremost tasks after
reaching Colombo was to "undo" all what Prime
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse had accomplished in the immediate
aftermath of the tragedy and bring the entire relief and
re-construction effort under the centralised authority of the
President. The speedy return and "sacrifice" of
holiday seems to have been propelled by narrow political
considerations rather than overwhelming concern for the
Tittawella and Dr.Tara de Mel
Her brother Anura vacationing in the
USA was not in a hurry like the sister. Perhaps he was confident
that his perceived rival from Girawapattu would have his wings
clipped because his "Akki" had returned to do the needful.
Finally Mallo too managed to get hold of a return flight and came
home - 14 days later. One of his first tasks was to criticise the
100 metre limit on the coast proposed by the Prime Minister.
"Stupid idea" he called it. It seemed obvious that the
Tourism Minister was aiming to protect and foster the tourism sector
at all costs while playing intra-party political rivalry.
Knee jerk reaction
This column too feels that the knee
jerk reaction to impose limits on re-building or fresh construction
along the coast was not a sound decision.This is because this column
opines that the displaced people particularly the fisherfolk should
not be prevented from returning to their homes if they so desired.
But Bandaranaike's concern is to preserve tourism.
Now TAFREN's Mano Tittawela too says
that these 100, 200, 300 metre limits will be evaluated on a sector
by sector basis. Given Bandaranaike's political clout and the power
of the tourism lobby there is no doubt that the hotels will continue
to dot the coastal landscape tsunami or not. What this column fears
is that ultimately the pre-tsunami inhabitants of the coast are
going to be uprooted in the name of post-tsunami development while
choicy chunks of valuable coastal real estate will be utilised to
the advantage of the powerful and privileged.
Anura Bandaranaike's determination to
prioritise the needs of the tourism sector over and above the larger
interests of the displaced population at large is only symptomatic
of a deeper malaise. The manner in which President Kumaratunga and
her cronies have been going about this massive humanitarian task of
rehabilitating and re-building tsunami affected Sri Lanka leaves
much to be desired. Two trends seem patently clear.
The post-tsunami reconstruction is
being done in a highly questionable, secretive, centralised approach
under which the voices of the affected underclass are not being
heard. If fate in the form of tsunami has dealt the underprivileged
a terrible blow the state in the name of post-tsunami relief is
arbitrarily deciding the future of this pathetically marginalised
Secondly, the post-tsunami rebuilding
effort seems to be going far beyond the imperativeneed to alleviate
sufferings of the affected and displaced people. The ambitious plans
formulated without consulting the affected people envisage heavy
allocation of resources and investment in projects totally outside
the parameters of post-tsunami rebuilding.
A powerful yet pathetic indicator of
the disparity in global perspective has been the response of the
rich countries towards the tsunami disaster and the AIDS situation
in Africa. As Stephen Lewis the UN special envoy on the issue of
combatting AIDS notes, the western nations and Japan have
enthusiastically pledged towards Asiantsunami reconstruction within
a month a sum nearly equal to that of what has been grudgingly
allocated over a period of four years to treatment and prevention of
AIDS in Africa. The reasons for this are well-known.
Sri Lanka has been particularly
fortunate in attracting the Western world's sympathy thanks mainly
to the excessive attention given by global media, the spontaneous
upsurge of caring concern amid foreign people, the high profile
visits of people like Colin Powell, Kofi Annan, Paul Martin, etc.,
and the untiring efforts of its ethnically divided diaspora that
engages in propaganda with different objectives. The country was
also lucky because of the international situation with the prickly
politics of Jakarta, Banda Aceh and India declining international
Thus Sri Lanka remains the major
beneficiary of international munificence. Making hay while the sun
shines Colombo has drawn up elaborate plans for reconstruction
costing US$ 3.8 billion. Iran in the immediate aftermath of an
earthquake received pledges of more than US$ 1 billion. Yet only US$
17 million have been actually given so far. Some doubt whether Sri
Lanka too would be given the same treatment as time goes by. Others
feel that the situation is different and that Sri Lanka would
definitely get staggered tsunami aid to the tune of at least US$ 2
billion. It could be even more if Sri Lanka performs well and
delivers by way of reconstruction and strengthening the peace
process. But then there is that very big "IF."
A notable feature of the
"charity" phenomenontowards tsunami victims in the
developed world is that it is fundamentally people driven. Due to
many reasons there was a genuine upsurge of sympathy among the
ordinary people in this country towards tsunami affected regions.
The people gave and gave as never before to a disaster in another
region. Numerous little children broke open their piggy banks in
touching gestures. The governments had to take this popular feeling
into account when pledging massive amounts for relief and
rehabilitation because the people wanted it so. In that context the
chances of governments renegading on their pledges on a large scale
are very unlikely.
Abuse of aid
What troubles this column is that the
massive aid given to Sri Lanka could be abused and misused. Despite
lofty pronouncements and pseudo-Churchillian rhetoric Kumaratunga is
showing all the signs of negative bungling as has been typical in
the past. The first lady who steadfastly remains unpunctual in spite
of a decade as President remains true to form as a person who will
not or cannot change. Her track record in the post-tsunami phase
does not augur well for the future.
Lets do a quick survey! Chandrika
returns home and immediately dissolves the structures set up by her
Prime Minister. She brings everything under her control. The tsunami
crisis and aftermath required a de-centralised approach given the
socio-political-economic aspects of affected society. What was
needed by the government was to outline a broad policy and
coordinate all relief and rehabilitation activity. Instead of
coordination we have excessive centralisation that stifles and
suppresses. Apart from its impracticality this centralisation goes
against the general thrust of constitutional reform which seeks to
devolve more power to the periphery.
This centralisation has been
exclusivist, secretive and despite bombastic propaganda flawed and
ineffective. The Prime Minister and important ministers including
those from affected areas are excluded in the major decision making
or policy formulation process. The coalition partner Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which has its political stronghold in the
affected Southern Province is not consulted or included. The chief
opposition except for some exercise in optics is out too. The
parliamentarians representing the east and north too are out too.
Neither the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) nor the Sri Lanka Muslim
Congress (SLMC) have been consulted formally.
What has been done is to set up three
task forces under the President. The two crucial ones are headed by
her confidantes Dr. Tara de Mel and Mano Tittawela both of whom hold
other posts too. There is no doubt that both of them particularly de
Mel are capable, efficient people. The point however is that vital
functions regarding tsunami relief and reconstruction have been
placed under centralised authority that bypasses in some way the
civil administration and does not give priority to the people.
In the case of TAFREN under Tittawela
many of the members are from the private sector. These are
successful commercial giants, but totally out of place in the TAFREN
set up. What is needed in such an institution is participation of
the affected people or their representatives. It is only then that
the concerns and welfare of the ordinary people will be accommodated
The entrepreneurial class will
certainly reconstruct, but the interests of the people will not be
central to these efforts. The foreign aid is being given to the
people of Sri Lanka and not to Presidential favourites to dispose
of. Efficiency cannot be the sole criterion. Even fascists were
efficient. What is of utmost importance here is that the tsunami
affected people's interests are given foremost attention.
Unfortunately, that is not what is
happening now. The affected people of whom around 75% are fisherfolk
are not being consulted at all. Most tsunami victims are in a dazed
state still. In most cases even the relief provided has not reached
them fully. The victims are living in camps, with relatives and
friends or in their partially damaged dwellings. Few have returned
to work. Refugees in school camps are being forced to move out so
that schools could reopen. There is a conflict of interests here
between Education Secretary Dr. Tara de Mel who wants all schools running and Dr. Tara de Mel the refugee commissar who should
ideally look out for refugees first.
This government failed the people
miserably in the days even weeks after the tsunami. If not for civil
society comprising ordinary people, non-governmental organisations,
religious groups, security forces and LTTE the people would have
starved. A slow government machinery is yet to establish itself in
tsunami areas. Yet this top heavy Presidential task force has been
quick to rush out with an elaborate reconstruction plan. This from a
government that is hopelessly muddled with even the figures of the
dead as two different organs are coming out with widely disparate
figures. It appears despicable that a government should go public
with a rebuilding plan even before the dead are accounted for.
Worse still is that this plan has no
input from the people. Even full particulars from the victims have
not been collected or tabulated. Northern refugee camps for instance
have been sent Sinhala and English forms to be filled out though
victims there are mono lingually Tamil. How on earth did these
people in Colombo formulate a rebuilding plan even before full
particulars of the victims were obtained? Belated newspaper
advertisements are appearing calling for proposals. The actual
affected people are not in a position to say anything constructive
right now. All this shows an abysmal contempt for the victims in
whose names the aid is being obtained.
One also learns that local expertise
has been spurned in formulating plans. A team of foreigners without
any real awareness of social realities are there advising. There
seems no evidence that any grass roots surveys were done before
coming out with plans. Sri Lanka has the dubious distinction of
being the first country to come out with a plan to beg for donor
India nor Thailand have formulated a
plan yet because tsunami assessments are not over. Sri Lanka however
rushes out with a development plan before needs are taken care of or
requirements are properly assessed. It appears that the state which
failed the people is now trying to garner funds in the name of the
victims and utilise them for ambitious construction schemes instead
of the people. The scantyfunds allocated for people's needs as
opposed to "new" construction shows a huge discrepancy. It
illustrates clearly that the focus is not on the needs of the
The difference between local common
sense and foreign expertise was illustrated in several refugee camps
in the east. Lack of toilets and overcrowding was a big problem. The
foreign experts were talking of a toilet crisis. Yet locals with
years of catering to refugees came out with a practical suggestion.
Refugees were allowed to go out of camps to other non-damaged houses
in the areas and share facilities. Presto! And the problem was over
in no time. No one is blaming the foreign experts but they do lack
awareness of social life here.
The 100-200-300 metre limits and
attempts to forcibly relocate fisherfolk seems to have been made in
the ivory towers of Colombo. The fisherfolk cannot be separated from
proximity to the sea. The important thing is to get them back in the
sea doing what they always did - fishing! There is no guarantee that
the next tsunami will hit the same place it hit earlier. Besides
what would these ivory tower planners have done if the tsunami had
hit Colombo, Negombo, Moratuwa, etc. Evacuate all people on and to
the west of Galle Road? This idea of relocation and preventing
people from returning home is a terrible blunder. The protests in
Hambantota and Matara and Galle by the slowly recovering people is
only the beginning.
The north and east seems totally
neglected in all these plans. There is clear proof that aid is yet
to get through fully to the people. Joseph Pararajasingham
complained that only five minutes was allocated in a two hour
meeting to discuss tsunami issues in Colombo. Though Amparai was the
district affected most state media focuses very little on that. Due
to majoritarian political considerations most of the state sponsored
attention is on the Sinhala areas alone.
It is hard to believe that a government
which played politics to the low level of keeping the UN Secretary
General out of LTTE controlled areas could ever do the right thing
by minority areas.
The policy makers in Colombo seem
oblivious to the fact that the rumblings of discontent in a
post-tsunami scenario are heard not only among Tamils, but also
among Muslims. This however does not in anyway detract from the
magnificent manner in which ordinary Sinhala people rushed to help
Tamil and Muslim brethren after the tsunami. It is not the Sinhala
people ,but their politicians and bureaucrats who are that. Though
Amparai District suffered the most the first project was announced
not there, but in Hambantota.
If this then is the order of things and
the tsunami victims are not being consulted when formulating
resettlement plans then for whose benefit are projects being setup?
The centralised and exclusivist nature of planning displays a
blatant lack of accountability and transparency. The answer seems
obvious. The ambitious and grandiose projects envisaged mean a lot
of money. Cronyism being what it is a parasitic element is sure to
latch on. One can be sure that a hell of a lot of graft and
corruption is going to occur. What will the JVP do? Make some noise
and share the gravy train? or take a principled stand? If the power
coterie in government circles is too greedy and keeps the JVP out,
then the rathu sahodarayas may have to make a virtue out of
necessity and take up an opposing stance.
One cannot be naive not to presume that
much of the aid will have strings attached. Many of the proposed
projects could be anti-poor and anti-common people. After relocating
the fisherfolk from their coastal habitat tracts and tracts of
coastal areas could be given over to tourist resorts. The small
fisherman could be eliminated and big international fishing cartels
move in to our seas and shores. Kumaratunga herself has indicated
that she will now move firmly on projects that were put on hold
because of protests from the people. So anti-environmental,
anti-poor people projects like Norachcholai coal power plant, Upper
Kotmale power plant, Eppawela phosphate, etc., could be rammed
through. Water privatisation bill is only a sign of things to come.
The people however pathetic and
powerless will not go under without resistance. There will be
organised opposition to these post-tsunami, anti-poor plans.
Anticipating this perhaps the emergency has been declared silently.
The armed forces have been given powers in the relief work. The
emergency treats speaking out against specific projects as an
offence promoting disaffection among the people. The emergency
tsunami laws also allows for confessions made to an ASP admissible
as evidence like in the PTA thus doing away with a vital safeguard
in the evidence ordinance against torture and coercion under
So a possible doomsday scenario could
be that of protests against post-tsunami renaissance projects
erupting among the people and being ruthlessly crushed by the state.
Against that backdrop the question of democracy could become a
question mark. Elections could be postponed and a union of the
powerful could be established. Kumaratunga's remarks at Hambantota
provide an insight into the future.
Vigil on rulers
In this dismal climate four factors are
crucial in determining the future. First the role to be played by
the JVP and UNP. Will they go along with this or oppose? Second, the
LTTE and how it would fit in all this. Will it strike a deal with
Colombo and do its own thing in the north and east or will it get
entangled in conflict again? Third, the extent to which relatively
weaker sections of society organise themselves and protest and how
the independent media treats these issues. Fourth, the international
communities response to blatantly anti-democratic, anti-poor actions
by the Lankan state. Will the cash flow continue or run dry? There
is a "fifth" too. The demonstrated inability of the
Kumaratunga regime to push through projects efficiently. Can she
with all sincerity deliver what she promises?
The tsunami disaster was a great set
back. The ordinary people rose above race, religion, caste and creed
to face that crisis. Now a hopelessly inefficient state that failed
the people in their time of need is trying to take control of the
lives of the victims and make decisions for them without any
consultation. This could have drastic consequences. If mishandled
the politics of post-tsunami renaissance could be another
debilitating disaster. The people must keep vigil on their rulers to
prevent such a calamity.
spills more beans
B. and Chandrika - those were the happy days
CONTINUED from last week, we publish
the second part of former Minister S.B. Dissanayake's expose from
within prison walls of all President Chandrika Kumaratunga's
political secrets he was once privy to. It is presented in the form
it was originally penned.
I was instrumental in toppling the PA
government in 2001. Professor G.L. Peiris, Mahinda Wijesekera,
Bandula Gunewardane and several other PA ministers including
Wijepala Mendis, Jayasundara Wijekoon, Ediriweera Premaratne, Ananda
Moonesinghe and Bandula Parakrama Gunawardena joined hands with me.
Six months before I defected, I
outlined the reasons as to why I would have to cease working for the
PA to the President in front of several senior party members. My
reasons were simple and as follows:
1. Chandrika was responsible for the
collapse of the country's economy and she was refusing to accept
2. She had completely messed up the
north east problem and was refusing to accept this
3. She and several of her close
associates had been personally involved in the procurement of arms
for the government security forces.
4. Despite the country's failing
economy, she was going ahead with plans to build the presidential
5. She had no sense of time and her
tardiness often ran into five or six hours past schedule
6. Knowing full well that everyone
present was aware she was lying, she would go on telling the same
7. Despite not having even passed her
O/L examination, she was professing to posses post graduate and PhD
8. She was more and more involved with
each passing day in suspicious dealings running into millions of
9. Warped by power and hungry for more,
she kept believing that no matter what she did, the people would
remain loyal to her.
10. Having cottoned on to her
weaknesses, a group of officials close to her had begun playing the
fool with her, while she remained blissfully ignorant of the fact.
Not only did she think their comments were funny, but she even
repeated them to her friends and laughed over them. Some of the
comments the President went around repeating were terribly
humiliating for several government ministers and officials.
"Madam you must have been the CID chief in your last birth.
Madam you must have been the army commander in your last birth.
Madam you must have been the chief justice in your last birth. Madam
you must have been an economics professor in your last birth,"
they would tell her and she would go around repeating. It was a
slight on the entire government to have officers laughing at elected
officials in that manner.
We informed her of all these things
before we defected from the PA. Even after we had made all the plans
to leave the party and refused offers of ministerial portfolios, the
President summoned Professor G.L. Peiris and myself and launched a
massive effort to get us to remain with her. She even tried to stop
Wijesekera from crossing over by appealing to him through K.
When I resigned from the PA, I was
minister of samurdhi, rural development, upcountry development and
parliamentary affairs. I was also deputy minister of finance and the
SLFP general secretary.
As soon as we crossed over, the
President brought several charges of corruption against me and
commenced inquiries. Intent on making me take the fall, she summoned
officers of the Bribery Commission and requested them to do
everything they could to make me out to seem the perpetrator. When
she could do nothing else, she made sure my declaration of assets
was swept under the carpet and initiated legislation against me
based on a false report drafted by a female lawyer. But she knows
that she cannot touch me with any of these things.
After the People's Alliance was
defeated in the December 2001 general election, Chandrika's role
should have changed from an executive to a figurehead president. An
example had been set for her by former President D.B. Wijetunga.
When the present constitution was being drafted, Professor Nihal
Jayawickrema had once asked President J.R. Jayewardene what role the
president should assume in such a situation. Pat came the response
from Jayawardene that if such a situation arose during his tenure as
president, he would give up his executive powers and become a
figurehead president only.
President Kumaratunga knows all this.
Despite that, she continued to exercise her executive powers
regardless from the moment the new cabinet was being appointed under
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2001. She refused to allow me
to be appointed samurdhi minister. She also opposed the nomination
of Paskaralingam, Professor Kumari Navaratne and Dhanasena
Hettiaarachchi as ministerial secretaries.
But the fault lay largely with the UNF
We had all the opportunity to mobilise a
massive people's revolution against the President exercising
her executive powers and stopped her in her tracks. She turned up an
hour late for every single cabinet meeting. Cabinet could have
easily met according to the schedule and finished the meeting before
she arrived. Instead we waited for her arrival to begin. One year
down the line, she had started to appoint her loyalists to senior
positions in the army and the police and taking control of matters
of national security.
While we took various measures to curb
her power-grab, we had absolutely no intention to let it escalate
into a full blown battle between the executive and the legislature.
When she finally wrested control of three ministries under the UNF,
our supporters forgot all their disappointments and grievances with
the party and came out on to the street in hundreds of thousands.
Their support was given expression the day then Prime Minister
Wickremesinghe returned to Colombo from his official visit to
Washington. But even that day instead of using the power of the
people to our advantage and launching a full-fledged fight, we chose
to take a more moderate path to resolve the crisis. These were all
bad decisions made because of the nature of our party members and
We believed in the promises she made in
her letter to the speaker of parliament, her assurances to the
Indian government and the donor agencies that she would not dissolve
parliament while the UNF held a majority in the house for at least
three years. This is why we chose to resolve our problems with the
President through discussions.
All her actions during the two year
tenure of the UNF; to undermine the government, lie to the nation,
attempt to hoodwink the international community, disregard the law
(by appointing the IGP and failing to set up the elections
commission, etc) using the judiciary, police and military to her own
advantage and her shameless acts of fraud and corruption only go to
prove the depth of her warped, rabid lust for power.
It is in the nature of man to want to
live life for as long as possible, as happily as possible. This is
why man desires wealth, power and sexual pleasure during his
lifetime. Those who have won power fairly by winning a good fight
derive happiness from a fulfillment of an objective, doing what he
wants and earning the respect and honour of other people through his
acts. He also derives pleasure from helping those who have remained
loyal to him and supported him through his battles.
But Chandrika, who hijacked power by
dissolving parliament in which the UNF had a majority has been
unable to achieve this happiness even in a small measure. By
insulting and taking revenge on her political detractors and
opponents, telling earth shattering falsehoods, she achieves only
short term satisfaction, but in the long run her actions have only
earned her incredible pain of mind and stress.
To begin with, she was compelled to
join hands with the JVP which is responsible for the assassination
of her husband. This can bring her no joy whatsoever. Even if she
were to make her peace with the circumstances that drove her to form
this alliance with the JVP, it has no doubt caused immense pain for
her two children. Naturally therefore, their pain would tell on
Secondly, she had no choice but to give
in to every condition laid down by the JVP. This could in no way
have been easy for her.
Having to hand over all ministries that
called for close links with the common people to the JVP did not
make her happy either.
Just as it could not have been easy for
her to put up with the most low down insults meted out to her by
none other than her alliance partners themselves. "Sleeping all
day, awake at night, mouth dry and eyes black - like a bibikkama"
her red brethren, said of her at public forums.
When the JVP protested her take over of
certain functions belonging to their ministries, she had no option
but to meekly return them - it was as if she were a dog cowering
with its tail between its legs before a monstrous power. Naturally,
this was not easy for her to digest.
Chandrika is in no way in favour of a
economic vision for a strengthened state sector. This is why despite
the UPFA election manifesto espousing these policies, the President
unveiled her plans for a private sector oriented, pro- open economy
a few months after the alliance assumed office. Nevertheless today,
she has had no option but to make the country plod along steeped in
an economic policy which is both archaic and has been a failure in
many other developing countries, reducing those nations to nothing
short of beggar states. This does not please her either.
As far as I can see, Chandrika's
greatest political victory is her ability to look at the ethnic
conflict without nationalist preconceptions. But even this
perspective she has had to alter to fit the JVP's nationalistic,
extremist stance within the new alliance. This fact also contributes
to the President's mental anguish.
But above all else, having to appoint
Mahinda Rajapakse as premier irked her. It was her mission to
prevent Rajapakse from becoming opposition leader, never mind the
premiership. But eventually she had no choice but to concede both
because of the circumstances that were fast spiralling out of
control inside her party and Mahinda's growing power base in the
SLFP. She could have resigned herself to giving the premiership to
anyone else in the party, but for the President, giving it to
Mahinda was a fate worse than death. His appointment gave her great
pain of mind, because she did it so grudgingly.
In the UPFA today, Jeyaraj
Fernandopulle is a vital political player. But the fact remains that
Chandrika was none too pleased with his appointment as chief
organiser and also commerce minister. The fact that Jeyaraj holds
such a senior party position and such an important portfolio does
not please the President at all - in fact she is jealous of it and
this leads to even more mental agony for her.
She had no choice but to give Fowzie a
ministry and this decision did not please her either.
Still to satiate her lust for power and
wealth, she has made sure to appoint her loyalists to all ministry
secretary positions and important positions in state institutions.
She has also assigned all powers to decide on tenders and the
management of state property to various boards appointed by her. In
this sense, she has usurped power from virtually every minister in
I remember one of the President's
famous quotes from some time ago - "I would like to give over
this presidency to someone else and keep only the finance
ministry." Her statement appears to exude her total lack of
desire for power and holding on to the reins and in fact there is no
truth in what she said at all. But the fact remains that closer
analysis of her statement would reveal her overwhelming desire to
control matters of monetary interest and value.
She has not a cent worth of knowledge
about the subjects of economics, management or financial control.
But her holding on to the Finance Ministry during the previous PA
regime only goes to prove her greed to accumulate wealth.
Now she has had to hand over the
portfolio to Dr. Sarath Amunugama. But it is no secret that she
still controls the Ministry. Treasury Secretary, P.B. Jayasundara
practically lives at President's House. He doesn't heed Amunugama's
advice. He does not make decisions with Amunugama. Despite this,
Amunugama tries his level best to maintain cordial relations with
Jayasundara in order to win him over.
Despite the President holding on to
control of the Finance Ministry, Amunugama has found ways to get
around the problem. Strategically he puts certain mechanisms in
place and makes decisions, much to the President's displeasure.
Some time ago Chandrika said
"Deputy Finance Minister G.L. Peiris only reads out the
budget." Her statement was published in several newspapers and
aired on electronic media channels. The statement only goes to prove
that her mind is simpler than that of a child's. Chandrika, who has
not even passed her GCE O/L examination attempting to make a
comparison of her academic and intellectual qualifications against
that of Professor Peiris is unthinkable. But she went ahead and
insulted him anyway. With regard to Amunugama however, the President
is yet to go public with her personal opinions about him. In private
though, she takes potshots at the Minister.
"Sarath is a rogue, he can't draft
a budget. I am the one who did everything. Sarath knows nothing
about economics. He has links with various conmen already," she
has alleged to several officials and ministers. To Chandrika,
everyone is a rogue but her.
Her problem with Amunugama lies solely
in the fact that he holds the portfolio she covets so much. Simply
put, she is jealous of Amunugama.
Despite her myriad troubles, great
mental anguish about the current state of affairs, and her all
consuming jealousy and greed, she continues regardless with her
plans to extend her term of office indefinitely.
What more then needs to be said of her
insatiable lust for power?
Madam Chandrika had no intention or
desire to abolish the executive presidency whatsoever. Before the
Presidential Election in 1994, she signed an agreement with the JVP
that she would abolish the presidency within six months of being
elected to power. On that basis, the JVP withdrew their presidential
nominee for the election. But a few hours after the agreement was
signed, she tore the document up.
Some time ago, UNP senior members
Gamini Dissanayake, A.C.S. Hameed and Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to
garner the two thirds majority required to abolish the executive
presidency. During the PA regime none of us were interested in
abolishing the presidency because
it was necessary to protect the government.
In 2000, the PA presented its draft
constitution. The draft constitution allowed for the abolishment of
the executive presidency but also had a provision that allowed the
President to remain in
office until the end of her term. Several parties in the PA and even
Professor G.L. Peiris himself, having drafted the constitution were
against this provision being included. But the President insisted.
It was her hope that the provision would allow her to continue as
President upto 2005 and then enable her to rule the country upto the
end of her lifetime as executive prime minister.
The first, second, third and tenth
priority of the government today is nothing more than keeping the
President in power indefinitely. For the first time in the history
of the world, the constitution of a country is going to be changed
because of one person's refusal to give up power.
So shameless is the JVP that even they
are willing to aid and abet this plan.
The JVP today has no backbone even to
say, "we support any law to abolish the executive presidency,
and change in the electoral system. But we are against Chandrika's
efforts to return to power over and over again." This shocks
There is no point in calling the
President a 'bibikkama'; in saying in public that she sleeps during
the day. The only thing they need to do is put things in place for
her retirement at the stipulated time. I know that 90 percent of the
SLFP is happy to allow the President to retire.
She is only too aware of this fact. She
knows the SLFP wants her to retire. She knows the JVP wants her to
retire, she knows the other constituent parties in the alliance want
her to retire. She knows Mahinda Rajapakse, SLFP General Secretary,
Maithripala Sirisena and Chief Organiser Jeyaraj Fernandopulle want
her to retire as soon as possible. But she is in no way willing to
give up the reins in 2005. And so she continues to hatch plan after
plan to prolong her stay in office.
She has several plans to achieve this
Change the constitution so as to allow her to contest the
election a third time.
Abolish the presidency and set up an executive premier post
and remain in that for all time
Remove Rajapakse as premier and appoint Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake in his place. In April this year, she would then
resign from her position as president, and appoint Wickremenayake in
her place. She would then enter parliament as prime minister and in
October name Wickremanayake as the UPFA candidate for the
presidential poll. He would win and then resign as president.
Chandrika would then be appointed acting president and once
parliament confirms her appointment remain in office for a third
Dissolve parliament on April 5 (exactly one year after the
last poll) and hold another general election seeking a greater
majority of seats in the house. Change the constitution illegally
thereafter and assume the position of executive prime minister for
This is how by December this year,
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga will expose her lust for power
and shamelessness in order to retain her position to the whole
She plans to do all this with a simple
majority in parliament and approval from the Supreme Court.
But to do any of these things, she has
to first win a referendum, a parliamentary election or a
The people of this country will never
let that happen.
On the day of that election or
referendum, the people of this country will sweep the Chandrika
I will join you in that struggle. These
cuffs will not prevent me. These iron bars will not stop me. These
high stone walls will not deter me.
Blessings of the triple gem be with
(More to follow)
deadline to CBK and internal battles
JVP's politburo meeting last week lasted from 10.30 a.m. to half
past midnight the next day. Interestingly, it was taking place at
around the same time the SLFP's heated central committee meeting was
unfolding. Everyone knows that the JVP usually holds such long
meetings only when they have matters of grave political importance
The JVP had decided that Leader
Somawansa Amarasinghe would also hold a press briefing after the
meeting. Many politburo members believed that the briefing was being
held to make public, crucial decisions made at the meeting.
The main thrust of the politburo
meeting was what the final decision was to be on the JVP's action
plan within the government. But before any conclusions could be
reached, the meeting became heated because of arguments between two
MP Nandana Gunathilleke who is heading
the 'comrade' faction within the JVP joined with several
backbenchers to heap scorn on Agriculture Minister and member of the
'ministerial' faction, Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The MPs levelled
several grave charges against the Minister.
The problem was with the government's
proposed privatisation of water. The MPs accused Dissanayake of
having undermined one of the JVP's main battle cries - to stop the
sale of water resources. "Whatever you say now, by not opposing
the proposal at the cabinet meeting on December 21, 2004, Anura
reduced the JVP to virtually nothing," Gunathilleke charged. He
added that this had been coming for a long time now, but no one had
taken notice of it when he had brought it up at previous meetings.
Not stopping there, Gunathilleke also
levelled accusations against President Chandrika Kumaratunga and
Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera. He said they were involved in a
highly strategic conspiracy to win over the JVP ministers and split
the party. "Our comrades who are ministers are so consumed with
their positions that now they have forgotten party discipline. We
must make a decision about this immediately. A great many cabinet
papers just like this one that go completely against our party
policies have been ratified by closing our ministers' eyes,"
At this point, Dissanayake and his
deputy, Bimal Ratnayake were criticised by many in the party
including MPs from Badulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. They said
that members of agriculture irrigation societies in their areas were
coming to their houses and demanding whether Anura Dissanayake had
been asleep while these proposals were being passed. "We have
leaders and policies. We can't allow the party to be pawned off to
Mangala and his set of boys. Today the President is a dictator. The
tsunami has only helped her to tell us to get out," they said.
Amid this babel of noise, Dissanayake
responded meekly that the water bill had indeed been ratified in
cabinet and pleaded the politburo's forgiveness for allowing it to
go through. He also promised that in the future, he would launch a
battle from within the cabinet and also in public against the water
How the President had foxed the JVP
ministers was by having the crucial cabinet papers submitted in
It was Small and Rural Enterprises
Minister, K.D. Lalkantha who won the praise of the politburo. The
members thanked the Minister for voicing his opposition to some of
the actions of the President and the government both in cabinet and
at public forums. Gunathilleke however, continued to attack
Dissanayake. He said that the situation today was a result of
Dissanayake's silence when certain subjects allocated to the
Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry were transferred to the Mahaweli
Ministry through a gazette notification so many months ago.
Gunathilleke said that Dissanayake had betrayed the party's battle
against these moves back then, and this was the direct result
The time for decision making finally
rolled around only at about 10 p.m. Samaraweera and several of his
close associates had already found out about the events unfolding at
the JVP politburo meeting. He found out because a member of the
politburo had called him while the meeting was still underway and
informed him that if things proceed thus, the government was at
great risk of collapsing. Quick to respond, Samaraweera sent a
message to the politburo then and there through JVP Propaganda
Secretary Wimal Weerawansa and JVP Leader Amarasinghe.
Samaraweera urged the JVP to refrain
from making any crucial decisions at the meeting and promised to set
up a discussion the next day between JVP leaders and senior
government members. Despite these assurances, Gunathilleke's mood
resulted in a great many decisions being made nonetheless. One among
them was the decision to issue a statement condemning the
President-appointed task forces to deal with tsunami relief. The
politburo also decided to give the government two months to stick to
UPFA MOU conditions when dealing with the tsunami crisis, failing
which the party would withdraw support for the government. However,
because of Samaraweera's assurance, the politburo decided to call
off the media conference scheduled for the next day. The members
decided however to give the SLFP two weeks to set up the discussions
before reaching a final conclusion.
fact that the tsunami wreaked a special kind of havoc within
political parties is no secret. The tsunami-effect was not limited
to major political parties alone, but extended to several minor
parties as well. For instance, the Ceylon Workers Congress.
While the trouble started off small, it
eventually escalated to such proportions that it involved P.
Chandrasekeran of the Upcountry People's Front as well.
Although the tsunami did not affect the
CWC's main vote base in the hills, the party and its supporters were
intent on assisting efforts to send relief to the north and east
since Tamil people lived in those areas as well. Immediately
post-tsunami, CWC Leader Arumugam Thondaman was overseas. Taking
maximum advantage of the opportunity therefore was Chandrasekeran.
Along with a group of volunteers from his electorates,
Chandrasekeran toured the north east and helped with relief efforts
in several areas.
Realising that Chandrasekeran could be
involved in relief efforts in order to gain political mileage,
several members of the CWC called Thondaman and appraised him of the
situation. Thondaman however did not seem to be too ruffled by the
news and continued his visit overseas.
His attitude caused much displeasure
among several senior members of the CWC. A battle that had been
brewing for some time now threatened to boil over after this latest
CWC Central Provincal Council MPs
gathered at the party headquarters in Colombo and urged senior party
members to organise relief efforts for the tsunami victims in the
north and east as soon as possible. The senior party members were of
the view that whether Thondaman was in the country or not, several
of them must tour the north east. Because the CWC is a party
identified with its leader, a faction of the seniors were against
this move. But Provincial Council Member, Govinda Raj insisted that
the CWC should even get together with Chandrasekeran and start
helping the relief effort.
As soon as he heard of this turn of
events, Thondaman returned to the country.
Immediately several of his closest
party associates informed him that there was a rebellion against his
leadership brewing within the CWC. As a result, the first matter
Thondaman attended to upon returning to the island was to suspend
Govinda Raj's party membership. This decision proved to be an
unpopular one. Several MPs told Thondaman that if word were to get
out that Raj's membership was suspended because he suggested helping
Tamil people affected by the disaster, it would not be good for the
CWC. They were also of the opinion that this decision would also
only serve to strengthen Chandrasekeran's power base.
But Thondaman appeared to pay little
heed to any of these concerns. Instead, he embarked immediately on a
tour of the east in order to 'teach Chandrasekeran a lesson.'
However, his tour was a flop since many
of the immediate needs of tsunami victims in the area had been met
by that time. As a result, the CWC Leader found himself to be
without answers to several questions posed by the people in the
Under the circumstances, the cracks
within the CWC are bound to widen in the weeks ahead.
A GREAT deal of aid is being granted to
Sri Lanka to help the country to deal with the tsunami devastation.
Apparently, the aid is to go to the people to help them rebuild
their lives. Whether or not the latter is true, enough money
certainly seems to be getting put to good use politically - a report
last week said.
The government members involved in the
game plan include a prominent cabinet minister representing the
Kandy District and a deputy minister from the Gampaha District.
Behind the scenes of the tsunami disaster, these two ministers are
engaged in a fascinating political chess game of their own. Their
task - to make seven chosen MPs from the UNP cross over to
The ministers have spent their days
lately visiting the homes of several opposition MPs informing them
that the government was further strengthened by the vast amount of
aid coming in to cope with the tsunami tragedy. So join the
government, the ministers urged the members of the opposition. They
also promised the MPs that the government was ready with a legal
framework to ensure they do not lose their parliamentary seats by
Going to visit an UNP parliamentarian
from the Kegalle District, the two ministers informed him that the
President was just then at President's House, waiting to appoint him
prime minister. They told the UNP MP that if he were to go to
President's House now, he could be sworn in. Shocked by this
information, the UNP MP responded that he could in no way agree to
do such a thing. "Why should I be sworn in as prime minister?
You have a very good premier now. If we change parties like this,
the people will start to throw stones at us.Whatever we do, we will
do united as the UNP," the MP said.
But the ministers informed him that the
President was waiting to remove Mahinda Rajapakse as Premier. The
MP, none too impressed, asked the ministers to kindly leave his home
without wasting any more time.
At the house of the next UNP MP being
canvassed for cross over, the ministers said that they had enough
money coming in as tsunami aid and could therefore make the MP very
happy if he crossed over. Promising him millions for his pains, the
ministers urged the MP to join the government.
Mesmerised by these visits, the UNP MPs
immediately met UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and informed him
about the extraordinary propositions. They told Wickremesinghe that
at a time when the entire country was getting together to rebuild
after the tsunami, it was unethical for
ministers to come up with such proposals. They urged the UNP
Leader to inform the President about the efforts of the two
ministers to use tsunami funds to win over opposition MPs and also
keep the country informed about the situation.
is an old saying that in politics, there is no such thing as a
permanent enemy or a permanent friend. Evidence of this was brought
home to many by an incident at Temple Trees last week.
Mahinda Rajapakse and Sajith Premadasa,
both Hambantota District MPs of the SLFP and UNP respectively have
had many spats in the past. The conflicts were especially intense
during elections. But one day last week, Premadasa not only stopped
by at Temple Trees to call on Rajapakse, but even stayed to lunch at
the Prime Minister's official residence.
Several problems had arisen during the
reconstruction efforts in Hambantota following the tsunami, and the
Premier was keen to iron them out. For this purpose, Rajapakse
invited Premadasa, UNP MP, Dilip Wedaarachchi and the JVP's Wijith
Ranaweera to Temple Trees last week for discussions. Premadasa was
of the firm opinion that the 100 metre buffer zone should be
properly thought out.
Rajapakse said he did not agree with
the buffer zone plan either but added that as a responsible
government they had a duty to follow through on decisions made by
party leaders. Rajapakse also accepted Premadasa's point that all
party representatives should visit affected villages and discuss
solutions to the problems with the people themselves before reaching
a final decision. He said however that in the end, the decision of
the central government had to be adhered to.
The news that Rajapakse and Premadasa
had lunch in Colombo spread like wildfire in Hambantota. Those that
logged heads and criticised each other in Hambantota joined hands in
Colombo, the people said.
the cabinet met as usual last Wednesday, President Kumaratunga was
not present. Post and Telecommunications Minister D.M. Jayaratne had
submitted a cabinet paper recommending a committee be set up to look
into delays relating to granting of telephone connections to
subscribers. His paper had also given a list of 10 people who could
be appointed to the committee. But opposing this paper and the list
of names contained therein were JVP Ministers K.D. Lalkantha and
Anura Kumara Dissanayake. They said that since every single person
on the list of proposed committee members were SLFP activists, the
committee would take on a political hue.
Since Jayaratne has never been one to
mince words, he lashed out - "I have enough proof that the JVP
appoints every single committee looking to gain political mileage
and consisting of party activists. If you like, I'll present this
evidence at the next cabinet meeting. Don't try to intefere with
issues relating to my ministry!"
Jayaratne added that he would not
change the list of proposed members. If he was made to do it,
Jayaratne said, he would resign from his portfolio. Trying to calm
troubled seas, Dissanayake piped up that the JVP was only opposed to
a committee set up by the cabinet. In the end however, the JVP had
no choice but to support the proposals.
It was in the midst of this that the
President arrived at the cabinet meeting. The first thing to ruin
her mood was a cabinet paper submitted by Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse, about the construction of a school in Hambantota. She
pointed out as soon as she saw the paper that such requests should
be submitted through the relevant ministry. This was tradition, she
said. The President added that since the ministry in question was
held by her, she could not grant approval without properly perusing
Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle had also
submitted a cabinet paper. This was regarding the import of cement
from Turkey at a very low cost. Despite Fernandopulle's proposals
rarely winning the approval of cabinet, this one the President
decided to allow to go through.
Newly appointed Minister Rohitha
Bogollagama had submitted a proposal to resolve the transport
problems resulting from the railway line along the southern coast
being damaged by the tsunami. He had recommended setting up a ocean
ferry service to take people back and forth. Bogollagama's proposal
asked for permission to commission a craft that could hold 275
passengers at a time and would bring working people from Galle to
Colombo and back again. But Transport Minister Felix Perera opposed
the move. Perera's point was that since he was minister of
transport, the problem should be resolved by him. After he said the
proposal should be implemented through the Transport Ministry,
cabinet granted approval.
of the NGOs over tsunami spoils
personnel at work
By Frederica Jansz
Thirty days in the aftermath of the
tsunami a disaster of a different nature is looming on the horizon.
This one involves multi million dollars and international as well as
local non governmental organisations. So huge are the financial
pledges that these organisations have begun to row over the spoils.
So much so, last week in Kilinochchi, a heated argument broke out
between representatives of UNICEF and local NGOs when UNICEF charged
that local NGOs "are too small to work with."
And in the backdrop of ugly scenes such
as these, additionally, a potential political backlash is also in
the making in the backdrop of a massive number of international aid
agencies having arrived in Sri Lanka pledging relief to tsunami
Even as the government expressed
gratitude to these agencies for having responded with impressive
speed to Sri Lanka's SOS, coalition partners to the government have
begun to voice suspicion that in the long term, foreign aid workers
will do more harm than good.
Foremost is the charge that foreign
relief workers are propagating Christianity among a majority
Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu victims rendered homeless and destitute
in the aftermath of the December 26 tsunami.
A high profile political leader who
requested anonymity in view of the serious clashes Sri Lanka was
exposed to between Christians and Buddhists in the months leading
upto the tsunami, said, "a dangerous situation is brewing in
the east - particularly in areas like Amparai where foreign aid
workers are suspected to be advocating Christianity to tsunami
victims who remain mentally battered and bruised since the killer
waves robbed them of house and in many instances family too."
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC)
Leader, Rauf Hakeem said dozens of International Non Governmental
Organisations (INGOs) have arrived in the country with funding four
fold separate to government to government pledges. It is in this
backdrop he asserted that now religious tensions are brewing caused
as a result of the presence of foreign aid workers. "It may be
a silly accusation to make against them, but nevertheless, it has
been made and this may very well lead to other conflicts," he
It is not just Hakeem who pointed this
out. Local aid workers in the east are particularly worried that the
situation may well lead to clashes. Additionally, is the charge that
the INGOs are competing fiercely for work space in tsunami affected
areas. So much so, that house rents in some of these areas have sky
rocketed while local aid workers are demanding larger perdiem
Executive Director, Foundation for
Co-existence, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe complains that despite staff from
his organisation having been on the scene since December 26, helping
pull out bodies and assisting families who had been torn by the
tsunami, much of their hard work he said is now being marginalised
by foreign aid agencies who are determined "to take over."
Rupesinghe is of course careful to
mention that "we have to be grateful to the aid agencies. After
all they came with good intentions to help Sri Lanka in her time of
need." but having said that, Rupesinghe has also deep
reservations on the long term implications of these people
continuing to work in Sri Lanka.
But if Rupesinghe has reservations in
relation to the expatriate groups working in the tsunami affected
areas, local bodies have also expressed suspicion charging that
Rupesinghe and his foundation has no business in tsunami affected
areas as their mandate is to propagate conflict resolution and peace
building initiatives and not become involved in humanitarian
Executive Director, Sarvodaya, Dr. A.
T. Ariyaratne is also skeptical and critical. Having secured over Rs.
142 million in aid, since December 26, Ariyaratne has a well mapped
out strategy to bring relief to the victims.
Working independent to the government
and other aid agencies Ariyaratne says there is a key difference
between his outfit and that of the government task forces. "The
government task forces are functioning thus, command, control and
coordination. But I work differently. I consult, corporate and
communicate." According to Dr. Ariyaratne the aid effort by
both government and INGOs "is in a total mess."
His comments were somewhat corroborated
by an aid worker in Amparai who said hundreds of tents brought in by
INGOs are lying in lorries in Amparai as the Government Agent Herath
Abeyweera, has yet to make a policy decision on shifting tsunami
victims out of schools and other public buildings to areas where the
tents can be put up.
Slow aid flow
Another aid worker who requested
anonymity also said that government aid to the victims has been very
slow in reaching the affected. He maintained that absolutely no aid
from the government reached tsunami victims in the first two to
three weeks after the tsunami, but that all relief was supplied by
the INGOs and members from local civil society groups and
Exactly one month after the tsunami, by
January 26, an estimated 140 NGOs were working in the Amparai
District alone. Of which nearly 100 are INGOs. This situation has
led to house rents sky rocketing in the area as INGOs clamour for
floor space out of which to direct their operations.
For instance a house usually available
for a monthly rental of Rs. 15,000 is now being taken by foreign aid
agencies for as much as Rs. 65,000 per month.
Resident Representative, United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, Miguel Bermeo says many
of these INGOs are in Sri Lanka for the very first time. They are
not affiliated to any UN aid agency nor had previous work experience
in the country.
Another local NGO boss is furious. He
claims that government agents of tsunami affected districts are
cow-towing to foreign aid workers and discriminating the local NGO
sector demanding hard cash be put on the table before they can be
given the green-light to operate and work with the victims.
The problem is that many of the local
NGOs have submitted appeals for funding which are yet to materialise
into rupees and cents. On the other hand, international aid bodies
have come in with a few million dollars, already in hand.
For instance, the United Nations (UN)
and its partners launched a flash appeal to respond to the urgent
and immediate needs of the communities severely affected by the
earthquake and tsunami that hit coastal areas in India, Indonesia,
Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Maldives, as well as Myanmar, Seychelles,
and Somalia, on December 26.
This flash appeal espoused the efforts
of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to plan and
implement a strategic, efficient, and coordinated response to the
needs of some five million people. Programmes focus on keeping
people alive and supporting their efforts to recover, for example in
the agriculture, education, health, food, shelter, or water and
The UN sought US$ 167 million for Sri
Lanka, out of which US$ 41 million has been raised thus far as a
result of this appeal. Monies which, Miguel Bermeo said, have
already been dispensed to UN affiliated and other non governmental
organisations. The UN in fact has asked for nearly US$ 1 billion to
carry out relief work in all tsunami affected countries.
But the UN flash appeal has also come
in for flak. Criticism is levelled against certain NGOs for having
submitted budgets seeking foreign aid when their mandate before the
tsunami was not focused on humanitarian assistance, but more on
conflict resolution and peace building initiatives. A case in point
is the Foundation for Co-existence.
Dr. Rupesinghe slammed his critics
asserting the foundation has every right to seek aid in the context
of the tsunami. He asserted that the foundation had a field presence
and has been working on what is called "human security."
Code of conduct
He said this work is basically on the
land question which is land lost by the Muslims. The foundation he
said has been working these last two years to help regain that land
and promote co-existence. "When this disaster struck we had to
work with our communities where on the first day itself we responded
to an urgent appeal to set up rescue and search operations. We have
been working right through the process to bring relief," he
said, adding that in this context "we cannot abandon these
Rupesinghe meantime hit out hard at
international aid agencies saying "international aid agencies
are now monopolising the entire field and edging out local
organisations. Even Seva Lanka has been edged out and they are a
much bigger outfit than us as well have been working in the field
far longer than us."
Rupesinghe charged "there should
be a code of conduct between international NGOs and the local
organisations - and co-partnership is a must."
He added that the INGOs are also not
transparent in relation to the amount of funding they have received
and "are robbing our staff by offering salaries three times to
what we can afford to pay - they are thus scaling down our
operations - making huge promises to tsunami victims many of which
they cannot keep," he said.
The tsunami has served as a catalyst
for securing multi million dollar financial pledges. Apart from
official government to government pledges another whole different
aspect is involved in gathering financial aid. Millions of dollars
by way of private donations have been made via private organisations,
groups and individuals.
Oxfam together with a consortium of
other INGOs for instance has received a massive amount of financial
aid in the region of US$ 200 million, since the tsunami.
Oxfam is an INGO well recognised in the
West, Europe and Australia, and individuals wanting to help tsunami
victims know no other group other than this NGO to make a donation.
Oxfam has an easy guide to instructing individuals and organisations
how to channel financial donations on its web page. Similarly, Save
The Children, the International Council for the Red Cross, and Care
are among some of the INGOs who have secured massive sums of money
in this manner. (See box)
Since the tsunami, Oxfam has recruited
up to 30 foreign workers who have been designated to serve as
managers at Oxfam in Sri Lanka. Not a single Sri Lankan has been
recruited for these posts. Oxfam in the aftermath of the tsunami is
operating on a budget of sterling pounds 3 million.
The question is how transparently will
these monies be utilised. How accountable are these organisations to
ensuring that these monies are channeled directly to the victims.
Even Bermeo, in his position as chief
of the UNDP in Sri Lanka, possessing a streamlined method of
handling such aid admitted that in the aftermath of the tsunami an
unprecedented amount of foreign aid both in terms of relief and
finances poured in making "it chaotic and hard to
It was not just Bermeo who was feeling
the pressure. The Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator and
Director, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),
Yvette Stevens told a news conference in Geneva that the situation
was particularly challenging given that a widespread disaster
occurred in several countries. The UN was "used to
dealing with disasters in one country," she said. "But I
think something like this spread across many countries and islands
is unprecedented. We have not had this before."
Executive Director, Consortium of
Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), Jeevan Thiagarajah has his own
concerns. He maintains that "there is a moral obligation"
on the part of every NGO local and foreign to be transparent and
accountable. "We market suffering and we seek support to
respond to that suffering..." this focal point he maintained
must not be forgotten in the rush to secure and deliver aid to
A senior government official confided
how the government was recently approached by "a foreign NGO
representative" who pledged one million pounds on an annual
basis to provide "training in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the
tsunami." What type of training had not been determined. It is
this type of situation that Sri Lanka is now becoming fast wary of.
Questions are already being asked - have we fallen easy bait to
contributing to the existence of certain non governmental
Now Bermeo asserts he is in the process
of establishing a monitoring centre in Colombo that will he hopes be
able to identify the large number of INGOs in the country and
monitor work progress as well as seek financial accountability.
"Of course responses are voluntary - but we hope that we can
this way at least capture the picture collectively," he said.
It has become increasingly clear that
certain NGOs have jumped, feet first, onto a gravy train. One that
begins with the big T- word. No longer is it terrorism it is now
tsunami. The word works wonders in helping roll in lucrative bucks.
Thiagarajah for instance explained how
a US$ 20 million aid donation for tsunami victims will certainly not
all be distributed to the affected. A certain percentage he asserted
ranging from 3% to as much as 40% maybe retained by the relevant
agency towards operational costs. "This is why transparency and
accountability is an absolute necessity," he said.
INGOs which secure big money
World Vision International
Action Against Hunger
Adventist Development and Relief Agency
American Friends Service Committee:
American Jewish World Services:
Association for India's Development:
American India Foundation:
American Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee Raising Funds:
American Red Cross:
Baptist World Alliance:
CARE Global Webpage
CARE International UK:
Catholic Agency For Overseas
Catholic Relief Services:
Christian Aid Ministries (CAM):
Church World Service:
Direct Relief International:
Doctors Without Borders:
Handclasp International, Inc. :
International Association for Human Values (IAHV):
International Committee for the Red
International Federation of Red Cross
International Medical Corps:
Lutheran World Relief:
Medical Assistance Programs (MAP) International:
Medecins Sans Frontieres:
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC):
Oxfam America Asia Earthquake Fund:
Save the Children:
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):
UN World Food Programme:
US Committee for UNFPA:
US Fund for UNICEF:
Vibha - a brighter future for children:
World Health Organisation:
ViDe - Volunteers for India Development and Empowerment:
bucks for foreign aid workers
While we are on the subject of
marketing the tsunami, it would be pertinent to note that the
hundreds of aid workers who have arrived in Sri Lanka
responding to the island's SOS as it struggled to deal with a
devastating crisis are not here to lend a free hand.
Miguel Bermeo said the UN is paying its
aid workers who work in the east, namely, "Trincomalee,
Batticaloa and Amparai US$ 1,000 per month," which the UN
classifies as "hazard pay." This is separate to a
monthly remuneration package.
Hazard pay or a risk allowance is
determined based on security concerns which, Bermeo pointed
out, continues to exist in these areas. In the event some
workers do not work a month, but perhaps only two weeks then
payment is calculated on a daily basis of US$ 33 per day, he
In the south, Bermeo maintains UN staff
are paid an average of between US$ 4,000 - 5,000 per month for
their work in addition to hotel and food allowances.
But another foreign expatriate who
requested anonymity maintained that certain INGOs pay its
foreign aid workers as much as US$ 7,000 to 8,000 per month in
addition to a risk allowance of a minimum of US$ 1,000 to US$
2,000 if working in areas where security concerns exist. When
they return to Colombo they are housed at a five star hotel -
either at the Galadari or Hilton Colombo.
and ethics for
Jeevan Thiagarajah reiterated the need
of the hour is to recognise some critical aspects for the
recovery strategy to be effective. He asserts the
reconstruction strategy should thus be built on a set of
guiding principles, drawing from international experience in
previous disasters and bearing in mind the special political
circumstances of Sri Lanka and all key stakeholders.
He pointed out that the recovery
strategy should be conflict-sensitive, based on the principle
of subsidiarity, meaning each constructive activity should be
designed and implemented at the lowest competent tier of
Also consultation with local affected
communities and stakeholders is essential while there needs to
be communication and transparency in decision-making and
implementation. He said all parties should adopt
zero tolerance for corruption in this joint effort.
Thiagarajah added that if debt relief
or a debt moratorium is granted to Sri Lanka as part of the
financing package, it would be especially important to deploy
the resources so released in a transparent way.
Further that reconstruction processes
should reduce future vulnerabilities to natural hazards,
including floods, cyclones and landslides. A coordinated
approach he asserted is critical to ensure that these
principles are followed and to prevent duplication or overlap
Relief Foundation was set up
by several young tsunami survivors
they say "many young people from
various places in the world have been putting a lot of their
time and energy into the tsunami relief efforts being
undertaken by existing organisations. Many of the relief
efforts have proved fruitful, although there have been times
when we have not been provided with efficient or informative
feed back, and also times when we have received news of the
misdirection of funds and aid. Frustrated by the lack of
clarity about where funding is going to, or 'not' going to, we
have, after much thought and consideration, decided to embark
on our own project' - The Tsunami Relief Foundation."
appeal for donations
"Donate to Oxfam America's Tsunami
Response and Global Emergencies Fund
Oxfam staff and partners are on the
scene in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. Over the next few
weeks we will be providing clean water, emergency supplies,
hygiene kits, and sanitation facilities to over 600,000
people. And we will be there for the long haul. Earthquakes
and tsunamis may be unavoidable, but poverty isn't.
Effective January 13, 2005, Oxfam
America has established the Tsunami Response and Global
Emergencies Fund and has closed its Asia Earthquake Fund. The
new fund will still support immediate and long-term tsunami
relief. We will apply any additional funds for urgently-needed
poverty reduction measures in the countries affected by this
disaster or for other critical emergencies.
Oxfam America is a 501(c)3 organisation
and proud of its financial efficiency. Ninety percent or more
of donations to this fund go directly to saving and rebuilding
lives. Your donations are fully tax-deductible to the extent
allowable by law. If you'd prefer not to give online, you can
donate via phone, fax, or mail."
of the UN appeal globally for aid to Sri Lanka
Coordination and Support Services
Economic Recovery and Infrastructure 48,960,475
Family Shelter and Non-Food Items
Protection/Human Rights/Rule of Law 5,634,000
Water and Sanitation
playing for high post - tsunami stakes
The Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam are engaged in talks about setting up a structured authority
to oversee and coordinate all tsunami related rehabilitation and
reconstruction activity in the North - East. The Suranimala column
of last weeks "Sunday Leader" exclusively reported that a
tiger delegation headed by pulithevan was in Colombo from Jan 15th
to 19th for talks with a government team led by Jayantha Dhanapala.
The facilitator was Norwegian envoy Hans Brattskar.The LTTE was
scheduled to be in Colombo this week too for a second round of
A remarkable change almost a sea change seems to have come over in
the LTTE approach towards current issues. The LTTE is now very
flexible on the question of setting up a post - tsunami structure
for the North - East. While wanting to head the envisaged authority
the tigers are prepared to accept three joint chief
coordinators representing the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities.
It is also ready to set up a coordinating council representing the
affected six North - Eastern with all three communities.
According to the LTTE the affected Northern districts of Jaffna,
Kilinochchi and Mullaitheevu will have a coordinator each. All three
with a predominantly homogenous Tamil population will have Tamils as
coordinators. The Eastern districts with a largely heterogenous
population will be different. The multi -ethnic Trincomalee and
Amparai districts will have three coordinators each representing all
three communities. Batticaloa will have a Tamil and Muslim
cordinator each. Thus the eleven member council or task force will
have six Tamils, Three Muslims and Two Sinhalese.
The Tamils will be appointed by the LTTE, the Sinhalese by the
Government and the Muslims appointed by a majority of the elected
North - Eastern Muslim MP"s. The Council will reflect the
ethnic ratios of the combined North - Eastern population. The
Muslims and Tamils will have three each in the East. The North will
have only one from each district. So the coordinating council or
task force will be East dominated thus avoiding charges of Northern
The prima facie flexibility displayed by the tigers seems truly
remarkable. It was only last december that the LTTE was planning to
announce quitting the ceasefire after Thai Pongal this year. Now the
same LTTE was ready to join the Government in setting up a joint
mechanism. The peace process was stymied by the insistence that an
Interim Self - Governing Authority (ISGA)be set up under sole
LTTE control for the N - E. The LTTE was not prepared to compromise
or even accommodate power - sharing options on the ISGA.The LTTE had
been strongly opposed to accommodating the Muslims as an equal third
party in the talks. Now the tigers were ready to be more than
generous to Muslim interests.
Moreover the LTTE is seemingly prepared to put the ISGA or nothing
demand in cold storage and opt for a task force structure with
limited and lesser power. This is not all. It was in April 2003 that
the LTTE quit the joint sub - committee on immediate
rehabilitation and humanitarian needs charging that it was too slow
and ineffective. When this column criticised that action the LTTE
responded by a barrage of vicious propaganda against this writer.
The highwatermark (or low) of that campaign was an article in the
LTTE English flagship "Tamil Guardian"singling out this
writer by name in a vituperative attack. No other Journalist has
been attacked by name in the "Guardian" before or after.
Belatedly the LTTE seems to have realised the validity of that
criticism about jettisoning the joint mechanism and is ready for a
The LTTE claiming the needs of the people were urgent has waited for
20 months now without any structure being set up. So much for the
urgency of the situation. The very same tigers are now ready for
another joint mechanism to address tsunami needs. The so called
imperative needs of the earlier category of war affected refugees
have now taken second place to the immediate tsunami refugees.
The UNHCR at least is consistent and humane. It has called for
resettling both categories together. The LTTE like the government
seems ready to abandon the people whose cause was used to justify
the earlier abandoning of peace talks. Even now the government and
LTTE will do well to revive the defunct SIRHN and address needs of
both refugee categories instead of trying to set up a new authority.
The LTTE "change" is all the more interesting because of
the visible "U" turn even in the post - tsunami phase. The
LTTE and its propagandists overseas unleashed vicious criticism of
the government after the tsunami accusing it of blatant
discrimination. The LTTE and affiliated organizations wanted
international aid to bypass Colombo and be channelled directly to
them. Working together with the government seemed out of the
question. Now the LTTE is prepared to work with the same government
it vilified constantly.
The government for its part played cheap politics by preventing UN
Secretary - General Kofi Annan from visiting LTTE controlled areas.
The Italian envoy in Colombo too was chastised for daring to visit
Kilinochchi. All this was to prevent the LTTE defacto administration
gaining "legitimacy" it was argued. Earlier the same UPFA
had criticised the ISGA proposal on somewhat similiar lines. Now the
same regime wants to set up a joint mechanism with the LTTE. If this
will not confer respectablity, power and legitimacy to the LTTE what
will? Certainly not the Kofi Annan visit.! Only the JVP seems
consistent in opposing LTTE involvement. After all it was the tiger
card that was used by Kumaratunga to topple the UNP governmemnt and
seek new elections.
As stated in these coumns earlier neither the government nor the
LTTE are in a position to go to war in the aftermath of the tsunami.
Except for the lunatic fringe on either side of the ethnic divide no
one would accept or approve resumption of armed conflict in the wake
of this monumentally calamitous tragedy. Public opinion will not
forgive those who start war again. There will be international
oppobrium against the warmongers too.
If fear of national and international political repercussions is the
stick preventing a return to war there are carrots acting as
incentives against war too.Chief among them all is what makes the
world go round - Money! The international donor community is
prepared to dole out massive sums of cash for tsunami rehabilitation
and reconstruction. The hitch is that these agencies and nations
want both parties to work together as part of a joint mechanism.
It may be recalled that the Tokyo summit of June 2003 pledged 4.5
billion dollars for reconstruction after war and implementing the
"Regaining Sri Lanka" plan. The condition was that both
parties should progress along the peace process path. The entire
thrust behind that search for peace was a "cash for peace"
strategy. The development horse was tied before the peace settlement
cart. It was hoped that the lure of lucre will promote peace in Sri
Lanka. That approached failed miserably.The warring parties
demonstrated that their mutual animosity was greater than their
mutual need and greed for money.
Now the same donor community is back again with a fresh offer. The
tsunami disaster has provided a worthy and very deserving cause. The
immediate rehabilitation and resettlement of tsunami refugees and
reconstruction of affected areas.If both sides played ball and
reluctantly collaborated on post - tsunami renaissance then around 2
billion dollars at least will be doled out. The donors feel now that
a collaborative venture between both sides will strengthen the peace
process and pave the way for direct talks. In the meantime Govt -
LTTE interaction on the rehabilitation issue will be positively
advantageous it is felt.
Resettling the war refugees was not an issue close to any
"Sinhala" government as 98% of the refugees were Tamil and
Muslim. The tsunami refugees are around 40% Sinhala. Moreover the
politically sensitive Southern Province is affected. So Colombo is
forced this time to strike some deal with the LTTE and get its hands
on the moolah to carry out its grandioise plans.
The LTTE too wants money. Nowadays it has become a financial
conglomerate trying to eke, shake, make or take money.The tigers and
affiliates like the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization have raised
massive sums of money after the tsunami. Yet these are not enough to
effectively reconstruct the affected areas and galvanise economic
activity on a large scale. So international funds are very
necessary. It is not as if the LTTE is driven solely by concerns for
the Tamil people but it knows that money can be raised only in their
name. Mirror image of the Colombo regime. When this aid is obtained
and projects get going the LTTE will directly and indirectly make
So for this some compromise is needed. The LTTE has also learnt the
hard way that it cannot lay hands on the big bucks unless and until
it enters into a strategic partnership with Colombo. The same
Tamilselvan who pulled out of SIRHN led a tiger delegation to Europe
seeking separate funds for the N - E.. A dejected tiger political
chief lamented in an interview that the international countries were
not prepared to give the LTTE money directly. "They will give
money only if we and the government seek it together" he said.
Yet after the tsunami the tigers did try and strike out again. They
failed and now wisdom has dawned. The LTTE now knows that it has to
"bond" together with the government to gain funds.
Besides there is a major difference now as opposed to the Tokyo
summit situation. The tigers were prepared to play the peace talks
game in 2002 and 2003 too in order to get a slice of the economic
cake. The problem was that the international community wanted the
LTTE to adhere to some democratic norms and respect human rights.
This was anathema to the LTTE. The LTTE wanted aid with no strings
attached. It wanted the money but no "benchmarks" of
pluralism, democracy or human rights. It stood up to the
international community and now after many, many full moons the
donors seem to have capitulated.
There is no insistence on democratic norms or pluralism or adherence
to human rights codes now. There is no insistence on resuming the
peace talks too. There is no reference to the ISGA demand too. All
what seems necessary now is for the LTTE to forge some joint
mechanism with the government for tsunami relief and rehabilitation
and make it workable. The government keeps its so called
sovereignity as funds will not be given the LTTE directly but
channelled thriugh Colombo. Tiger affiliates like the TRO will get
funds with the approval of Colombo.
The government may have legal authority over the Country but its
writ does not run fully in the North - East.The LTTE can sabotage
any project there. So the LTTE is needed to execute projects in the
N- E. Like the story about the blind man carrying the lame man on
his shoulders to pluck fruit from a tall tree both the government
and LTTE are ready to join forces and share the booty.
When the LTTE wants something it is prepared to adopt any posture
that will succeed. The tigers know that the major opposition to the
LTTE being given control of the North - Eastern structure will come
from the Muslim and Sinhala communities. So it is bending backward
to accommodate them. The LTTE is more than generous in allocating
representation and sharing power with the other communities because
it does not want them to obstruct the tigers gaining overall
The LTTE and TRO are catering to some Sinhala and Muslim refugees
too in the East to enhance its image.Sharing power nominally does
not matter to the LTTE as it has absolute control over the
Predominantly North - Eastern bureaucracy. The tigers have the
unofficial power but not the legitimacy which is needed to get funds
legitimately and officially implement projects.
Apart from access to more funds this nationally and
internationally sanctioned legitimacy is also needed to establish
and expand its control among the Batticaloa - Amparai Tamil people.
The tiger base is badly eroded in the East after the Karuna revolt.
The power to rehabilitate tsunami victims will be beneficial
greatly. It will also use this opportunity to coax, cajole and
coerce new recruits.The LTTE will also develop its income generating
Internationally the LTTE will gain more prestige and "legitimise"
its fund raising. Security agencies abroad will not be able to check
donations given to a legitimate rehabilitation authority in the
North - East. Ironically one could channel the money through Sri
Lankan embassies abroad.It can also gain more clout with the Muslim
community. It will also strengthen its position vis a vis the armed
forces. Hypothetically the LTTE controlled resettlement authority
could "instruct:" the STF to transport a batch of children
from a refugee camp to a tiger camp for additional "counselling".Conscription
will be made easy.
What is frightening in this scenario is that giving legitimate
recognition to the LTTE in this respect will give tigers "carte
blanche" to do what they want in the N - E. Already the LTTE is
accused of diverting. hoarding and misappropriating relief aid.
People planning to go abroad on account of being affected by tsunami
are being deprived of official documents. They have to pay the
tigers to get them. There are charges of conscription from refugee
camps too. Against this backdrop the potential for greater abuse and
misuse of power is very much there.
What is perplexing is the move to give control of all affected N- E
districts to the LTTE. One can understand the "hobsons
choice" involved in areas under tiger control but extending
LTTE "writ" to Government areas is incredibly absurd. An
LTTE affiliate like the TRO could be one among several players if it
is visible and accountable but creating an overall N- E authority is
an invitation for trouble.IT can only result in more people of the
North - East coming under tiger hegemony.
The LTTE is seemingly flexible only to gain control of a North -
Eastern post - tsunami structure. The international donor community
and the liberal intelligentsia in the South must realise that the
LTTE has to genuinely adhere to concepts of pluralism, democracy and
human rights in the Tamil areas in order to gain further legitimacy.
It must also be transparent and accountable in executing funds. In
this high stakes game for tsunami relief funds the LTTE may
seem to be playing cool but is actually desperate for legitimacy and
funds. The donor community must raise the ante and call the tiger
honeymoon nearing an end
signing of the MoU between the two parties last year
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The Boxing Day tsunami waves not only
struck coastal Sri Lanka with all its ferocity a month ago, it has
also created a serious dent in the relations between the People's
Alliance (PA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the two main
allies of the ruling UPFA coalition.
Everything has its price and this is so
true of the coalition between the PA and the Marxist JVP that have
diametrically opposite policies yet stay together, spurred by the
common desire to stay in power. The ad hoc alliance is nevertheless
finding it difficult to stay afloat with several recent government
decisions clashing with the JVP's nationalistic policies. The one
thing that makes the Marxists hang in there is the split within
their very own camp with the more powerful faction still unwilling
to break free from the UPFA coalition.
Cracks in the UPFA
The honeymoon nevertheless is showing
signs of coming to an end. Following the tsunami, many JVP members
have begun to militantly express their opposition to several
government initiatives of which they themselves are a part of. They
have problems with the government mechanisms in relief distribution,
the proposed scheme for rehabilitation and reconstruction of
disaster struck areas, relocation initiatives and last but certainly
not the least, with the government's proposed rebuilding programme.
In the meantime, President Chandrika
Kumaratunga is finding the JVP's relief programme a politicised one,
and one that undermines the PA's wobbly efforts to assist the
disaster struck nation.
The first salvo against the JVP was
fired by President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself who openly took
broadsides at the JVP following the Marxists' much lauded work at
village level in helping the displaced in the immediate aftermath of
the tsunami waves. The JVP to its credit, managed to galvanise their
cadres using its well organised grassroot network within hours of
Kumaratunga, angered by this attitude
minced no words when castigating an unnamed party for having labels
on their relief work thereby politicising the humanitarian efforts.
She called it, "ugly and unsuitable" of any political
grouping given the magnitude of the devastation. This the JVP choked
on without a whimper.
The Marxists, of late have shown
tremendous ability to eat humble pie and to maintain diplomatic
silence on most issues with the quietest being the otherwise
vociferous Wimal Weerawansa, the fiery party spokesman who has
lately been in the forefront shielding the executive presidency, an
office his party loves to hate.
To Kumaratunga's blistering attack on
the JVP using the national disaster to score petty political points,
the JVP only offered a mild rejoinder. In an interview with the pro-JVP
tabloid Lanka, Weerawansa stated that it was better to work with
labels than not work at all. The significance of the statement
nevertheless cannot be overlooked. The fact that the PA miserably
failed to be effective at ground level is something that the JVP
inner circles gloat about and added to the mounting criticism
against the UPFA administration as one that failed to serve the
community in its hour of dire need.
However, if Weerawansa for some reason
is happy with the crumbs, there are those who have been agitating
openly and within party fora urging more decisive action to save the
party's political future. Chief among them is Small and Rural
Industries Minister, K. D. Lalkantha who has for months been
agitating for a clean break without compromising party interests.
Slowly but surely, some of the strong Marxists within the JVP fold
feel that they are being made to give into more moderate needs of
the UPFA coalition which are at variance with the JVP's political
According to two members of the JVP
politburo, the fears are very real as they feel that the JVP too is
being absorbed into the "collective muck of the UPFA" and
feel that their members were voted en block into the power house to
ensure that the leftist agenda is not totally compromised by the new
government. "We sometimes feel helpless and unable to contain
the situation. We came in to inject a Socialist agenda to the UPFA's
moderate liberalism. I believe it is important that we do not waver
from our commitments," says Minister Lalkantha. His contention
is that the JVP is largely there in the government for one purpose -
to ensure that public interest is served collectively and him
personally, to protect the rights of the working class.
But the infra dig of excluding the
party with no role in the relief and rehabilitation programme has
irked the red camp. Taking the three presidential task forces to
task at a meeting in Anuradhapura last week, Lalkantha lambasted
that they were nothing but personal committees of the President
headed by her cronies. He went to the extent of advising the public
not to be guided by such committees which do not reflect public
According to JVP sources, it is not
only Lalkantha who is unhappy. UPFA President, Nandana Gunathilleke
is another senior JVPer who has been expressing his disgust over the
government's failure to reach national goals and to work according
to the agreed agenda. Time and again, Gunathilleke has been drawing
the attention of the UPFA leaders to the collective failure to
adhere to the ideals expounded during the formation of the
The programmes, according to a senior
JVP source are not compatible, even when the JVP has adjusted its
stance to accommodate the broader needs of a rainbow coalition.
"On occasion, the blues resort to making sacrificial lambs out
of us and even indulge in some name calling," said one JVP
deputy minister, responding to President Kumaratunga's criticisms on
the JVP's relief efforts.
Three weeks after the formation of the
task forces, the Marxists are terribly unhappy about not having a
role to play in the rebuilding effort. What is worse is that the
government is slowly beginning to acknowledge that the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would have some role to play in it to
the exclusion of the JVP.
In turn, they are now resorting to open
criticism on both the TAFFREN and Centre for National Operations (CNO),
headed by two Kumaratunga loyalists, Mano Tittawela and Dr. Tara de
Mel. "Transparency and an opportunity for all parties were
pledged, but not even in the lower rungs of the network do you find
JVP members," says a JVP Southern Provincial Councillor.
What is more strange about
Kumaratunga's decision to keep the JVP out of the rebuilding effort
is that it received ample support from one of the brokers of the
marriage between the PA and the JVP - Ports, Aviation and Media
Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Samaraweera was quick to instruct the
state media bosses to keep both Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse out of the
television screens and state newsprint - an order he extended to the
Marxist party as well.
It is in this backdrop that Lalkantha
launched the stinging attack on the task forces, as instruments of
Presidential will alone and headed by personal friends who have no
understanding of ground realities. Lalkantha's argument is that if
they are committees of public choice they should also include
members from all political parties and other interest groups just to
ensure diversity and a broader approach.
Meanwhile, the number of indignities
the JVP has to suffer is on the increase. The party has lately
turned India friendly and has publicly stated that they did not mind
the presence of Indian troops on Sri Lankan soil, but not others.
Inside sources reveal that the JVP is extremely unhappy about the
presence of US troops indefinitely and has sought an assurance from
the PA leadership that they would be made to leave within a
stipulated time frame. But the request, it is learned has not
received a favourable reply.
Compounding matters, the PA leadership
has decided to ignore the JVP's call to exclude the Liberation
Tigers from any relief and reconstruction efforts in the north and
Further the government having initially
resisted the idea of working with the LTTE on any relief or
reconstruction programmes, it is learned has mellowed following the
Norwegian peace facilitators' visits to Colombo and Wanni.
The Sunday Leader reliably learns that
Norway has stressed the need to include the LTTE and the Tamil
Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) if any rehabilitation initiative
in the north and east is to bear fruit and earn public acceptance -
a position the government has reluctantly acknowledged.
While mechanisms have not yet been
designed, the JVP has voiced its strongest opposition and warned
that the involvement of the TRO would grant the LTTE the legitimacy
it has so far lacked in the eyes of the international community.
Carving a role for the TRO in the
rebuilding efforts in the north and east was very much the focus of
discussion when Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgarma met his
Norwegian counterpart Jan Petersen in Colombo. Petersen it is
learned has stressed on the fact that the LTTE could be encouraged
to play a positive role in the areas held by them and stressed that
sadly, those very areas have been battered twice - once by a
man-made war and now by a natural disaster.
Authoritative government sources said,
in the aftermath of all these discussions Kumaratunga is
contemplating on how to bring the LTTE in to a government network of
rehabilitation in this crisis ridden hour - not only to get the work
done, but also to demonstrate her conciliatory attitude to the
international community that has turned its microscopic gaze on
devastated Sri Lanka.
And this means keeping the angry reds
out of the initiative. If the blue camp's aversion to the reds is
making any group happy, that is the green camp. It is learned that
the UNP which has maintained a regular dialogue with the PA
leadership following the Boxing Day catastrophe has suggested that
the JVP's protests be largely ignored and to work with the LTTE for
And the more Kumaratunga delays, the
less support she would draw from the international community that
flooded the island with relief and logistical support but are wary,
as government lethargy has already set in. In contrast, the JVP was
active at ground level within hours of the disaster.
At village level, the JVP too is losing
the momentum in manning relief operations. No longer can one find
their Sahana Seva Balakayas (Relief Services Forces) driving around
villages or helping people to clear the rubble. Their presence has
considerably reduced with the arrival of foreign troops to conduct
clearing operations in the most ravaged areas. However, the JVP
still continues to hold the most successful health camps throughout
Being marginalised and ignored in the
relief and rebuilding efforts, the JVP has now begun backtracking on
its own commitments. The party is now disassociating itself from the
government's restructuring programme.
Politically, it is far more crucial for
the JVP to distance itself from the UPFA's move to restructure
several state institutions paving the way for privatisation, chief
among them the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Ceylon Petroleum
Holding the government's hand in this
scheme, the JVP knows would prove fatal. The JVP nevertheless came
on board with only whimpers of protest when quick efforts were made
to establish a Water Resource Management Authority and an act of
parliament was swiftly drafted to meet a May 2005 Asian Development
Bank (ADB) deadline.
Strangely, it is an established fact
that the draft bill ready before cabinet approval was signified on
December 21 last year and this approval included the consent of the
four JVP ministers who have been, like the rest of the Marxist camp
vocally opposed to all types of privatisation.
To cover up the embarrassment,
spokesman Wimal Weerawansa issued a statement of denial last week
claiming that the JVP remained committed to their ideals and denied
that there were any moves to privatise water. He further went to say
that any such moves would be strongly opposed.
Adding a further twist to the
intriguing tale, the four JVP ministers have now called for the
review of the Water Resource Management Bill, which has already been
referred to the legal draughtsman.
Meanwhile, making a passionate call to
defeat the conspiracies of multinational companies is Lands and
Irrigation Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The ADB team ignored
Dissanayake when they visited Sri Lanka last June to hold
discussions with all stakeholders during a 10 day visit. Though at
loggerheads with Minister Maithripala Sirisena who drafted a water
resource management policy in contrast to his own bill for the
conservation of water resources, Dissanayake too manages to stay in
an uncomfortable coalition without protest. Except of course giving
vent to his feelings in the pro-JVP Lanka claiming that all multi
national efforts to gain monopolistic control of national resources
should be collectively defeated.
Some of the lower rung JVP
parliamentarians are unhappy about the party's decision to review
the draft bill. They feel that a bill is only a reflection of a
country's water policy and that should be rectified in the first
place. "This is an eye wash. We will also fail to prevent it
from going through," said a first time JVP legislator
With the water drama continuing,
Minister Maithripala Sirisena has now taken cover under the
so-called need for issuing licences for bottling water projects.
Sirisena has been claiming that permits will be confined to such
projects and would not cover individual consumers as criticism
mounted on the UPFA's moved to convert a basic right of a citizen
into a commodity.
Losing a role
But critics allege that if the Minister
is only worried about bottling of water, it could be done by a
simple gazette notification under the consumer protection laws and
requires no fresh bill.
As things stand, the JVP has its cup
brimming with the blues pulling in a different direction with
obvious efforts to undermine the JVP's voice. Yet, strangely enough,
the Marxists are still determined to hang on to the fall of
Kumaratunga's blue saree and support to sustain a government in
which they are fast losing a role.
yet to request permission for adoption
Despite President Chandrika
Kumaratunga's much publicised claim to adopt a child orphaned by the
tsunami, Kumaratunga is yet to forward the necessary forms
requesting permission for such adoption to the Provincial Probation
Office of the Social Services and Child Care Services Department.
The chosen child, a Tamil girl of 14
years according to Kumaratunga, hails from the Trincomalee District.
She was spotted by Kumaratunga during her tour of the tsunami
affected eastern district of Trincomalee. At least that is what she
said in an interview with CNN.
Only the Probation and Child Care
Services Department and the Provincial Probation Offices
that derive authority from the department have the mandate to
authorise adoptions. The Probation and Child Care Services
Department deals with foreign adoptions while the provincial
offices, deal with local adoptions.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader,
Commissioner, Trincomalee Provincial Probation Office, N. R. Ranjini
says that she has not received any request letters from the
President regarding her plan to adopt the Tamil child, "What I
know is what I have read from the papers," she said.
"I do not know where this child
is," she informed when asked the whereabouts of this child
identified by the President.
Speaking to Talk Asia, CNN the
President stated that she saw "a sweet Tamil child at a center
in Trincomalee" and that she wished
to adopt a child and this girl it would be.
Explaining further, Ranjini added that
when people from outside the province wished to adopt a child from a
particular province they have to write to the commissioner of the
respective province, while people within the province can give a
letter to the probation officer.
Local adoptions have to be done by the
relevant provincial probation office.
Plans are currently underway by the
Justice Ministry to make amendments to the Adoption Ordinance to
accommodate the large number of requests for tsunami orphans.
However, Commissioner, Probation and
Child Care Services Department, D. M. S. Abeyagunawardana says,
"Adoption would be the last resort because we prefer to keep
these children in the care of the extended family."
The ordinance outlines the formalities
that need to be fulfilled for an adoption.
Father and mother
"We also have our regulations in
adoption procedures, and the department would prefer to have them in
place when a child is to be adopted. The child has to be adopted by
a couple - a father and mother," he said, adding that it would
guarantee the child will have a family atmosphere. That would
necessarily disqualify Kumaratunga.
"Childless couples are also
preferred by the department, when adoptions are being
negotiated," the commissioner said.
These regulations have been set up by
the department in keeping with the interests of the child in mind,
In the case where the child is over 10
years, his/her consent is needed if an adoption is to take place.
During the process of adoption the
concerned party will be visited by the investigative officer to see
if the home environment is suitable for the child, and the
investigative officers will continue to visit the child and family
after the adoption has been completed to see if the child is looked
"We also look into the social,
economical and financial suitability of the family before a child is
given to them to adopt, the department will also look into the
mental and physical status as well, to see if the parents are
capable of bringing up a child," explained Abeyagunawardana.
The department looks for familiar
backgrounds before adoption takes place. However, adoption is the
last resort, when there is absolutely no family for the child to
fall back on.
Presently there are over 1,000 children
who have lost both parents and over 3,000 children who have lost
either a father or a mother, but the number of people wanting to
adopt these orphaned children far exceeds the number of children.
Adoption procedures usually take around
two years before a final decision is made. Investigations have to be
made to see if the foster parents meet the necessary requirements
and if the needs of the child are met, after which adoption papers
can be signed.
There are currently around 30 children
under the custody of the Probation and Child Care Services
Department, while the rest of the children are staying with
However, the department also keeps a
check on centers and other shelters in order to get the exact
figures of children who have been orphaned, so that children in
unsafe environments can be moved to a secure place.
There are also instances where a
relative or a guardian can go to courts and legally obtain
responsibility of the child for six months, and with further
investigations this foster care can be extended.
Some of the requirements for an
adoption include the fact that applicants to adopt children have no
other children, they be not less than 25 years old, while their
social, economical and financial standing be looked into, even
police reports may be considered as past records.
However, in every adoption case the
courts will also decide if there should be a maximum age limit for
the adoptive parent. And depending on the age of the child, a
minimum age difference would be required between the parents and the
Due to the sudden increase in the
number of orphaned children after the tsunami, the Probation and
Child Care Services Department has started a programme to deal with
this issue - in the first stage the provincial probation officers
and the child rights promoting officers in the divisional
secretaries will collect data related to child victims who have lost
either one or both parents, and if they have or do not have a
Such information has to be brought to
the notice of the probation officer in the provincial probation
office or the child rights promoting officer in the divisional
Arrangements have also been made to
provide temporary protection for the unprotected children who are
living with their relations, while it is also stated that provision
of temporary protection of these children in children's homes or
other places has been made.
Children may be institutionalised or
removed from the community only as a last alternative, if it is
found not possible to unite them with their families or the
community, stressing that the child can be given for adoption only
through the legal and judicial procedure.
This alternative should only be done as
a last resort and if there is no possibility of returning the child
to their relatives or community.
The second step would be to deal with
the mental trauma of these children, and provide funds for the
well-being of the child.
Meanwhile, speaking to The Sunday
Leader Chairman, National Child Protection Authority, Prof. Harendra
de Silva says that the adoption process will not be rushed for
anyone as this is a lifetime decision, and the responsibility of the
child is the most important matter.
He also noted that there are other ways
where children who have lost either one or both parents can be
looked after, and this is by the foster parent's scheme or by
temporary care givers.
Prof. de Silva also noted that as the
tsunami orphans hit the news, the emotional reactions of the people
were high, and that after a while the number of applicants would
In this case he stated that priority
will be given to the local couples who want to adopt children after
which Sri Lankans living abroad will be given priority and finally
foreigners, because finding a familiar environment for the child is
attention to gender issues in the face of tsunami
The recent tsunami disaster has
resulted in many deaths, displacement of thousands and destruction
of livelihoods, infrastructure and property. Given the scale and
complexity of the situation there is a rush to attend to immediate
needs to restore normalcy, to initiate rehabilitation and
Numerous agencies; government, UN,
international and local NGOs, and individuals are attending to the
immediate relief measures, and soon a massive reconstruction and
rehabilitation process will begin. Some will have previous
experience and be knowledgeable and skilled in disaster situations.
There are also many organisations/groups and volunteers new to
crisis situations who are trying to help.
Despite good intentions, there is
always the risk that important issues get bypassed. Experience shows
that gender, in particular addressing women's issues in disaster
situations, is a key area where there will be gaps unless given
Although women and men have many common
concerns, disasters do affect women and men differently: because of
the different roles they occupy in community; the different
responsibilities given to them in life; and because of the
differences in their capacities, needs, and vulnerabilities.
Ignorance of gender differences leads
to insensitive and ineffective operations that largely bypass
women's needs and their potential to assist in disaster relief and
This note highlights important messages
about addressing women's concerns and gender issues in relief and
Making initial disaster responses
Disaster relief that is gender
interaction with the affected communities during the relief planning
assessments for relief distribution.
of female relief workers.
distributing provisions through women.
workers who are aware and sensitive to gender issues and
of skills and capacities of women from affected communities and
their involvement in relief planning, distribution of assistance and
in other emergency management activities.
that reaches sub-categories such as widows, old women, female-headed
households, single women, disabled etc.
to the cultural concerns of different communities and elimination of
culture/religion/gender based discrimination in registration,
compensation and relief distribution.
to the minimum standards set for relief distribution (e.g. the
Basic practical needs
Women have specific needs; and measures
should be taken to:
privacy for women in common areas of camps.
provide women's "corners," separate toilet and bathing
sanitaryware and rags for menstruation, and clothing such as
to needs of pregnant and nursing mothers.
provide infant milk powder, feeding bottles, infant clothing,
nappies and mosquito nets.
Security and safety
It is a fact that in displaced
situations, in temporary shelter and in camps, women and children
are often subject to sexual harassment, abuse and violence. Specific
measures need to be taken to secure women and children's safety:
practical measures to protect them from abuse;
secure sleeping arrangements, adequate lighting and safe location of
steps to ensure that the community is responsible for the safety of
possible, assist and accompany women/children going in search of
Women keep families healthy after
disasters. As caregivers to the young, old, sick, disabled, and
injured, women tend to put their own needs last. Relief and
reconstruction efforts need to pay attention to women's health and
ensure specific health concerns and needs are being addressed:
are needed to tackle the increased risk and incidence of sexual
and/or domestic violence associated with major disasters.
medical assistance should be available to women and child victims of
physical or sexual abuse. Some women may need the morning after
and family planning health services should be included in general
provision made for antenatal and postnatal care; pregnant and
lactating women who may need nutritional supplements.
different physical and mental health needs of women and men need to
be recognised and addressed.
people with disabilities, elderly people and family care givers.
Members of relief teams need to be
aware and sensitive to the issues of trauma:
differences in psychological impacts of disasters should recognise
that women's anxiety also stems from fear and risk to their
for mental health providers should address problems of highly
vulnerable groups such as women headed households, grandmothers
caring for orphans, battered women, women with disabling injuries,
newly widowed women and men, women at risk of suicide.
Gender sensitive planning for
In many communities, women take an
active part in community disaster initiatives. Yet in larger, more
formal planning, women are scarcely represented and markedly absent
from decision-making. Not being sensitive to gender issues in
development planning and disaster mitigation means that
interventions are often only targeted at men. Sensitivity to gender
is vital in order to empower a community to successfully move on and
move up from the abyss of disaster.
promote post-disaster development that reduces risk of communities
to disaster and empowers local communities. This means tackling the
reasons why certain sections of society and community are more
vulnerable to disasters. Rebuilding should happen in ways that
address the root causes of vulnerability, including gender
Women's local knowledge and expertise
are essential assets for communities and households struggling to
rebuild. To capture these capacities, disaster responders must work
closely with women. In planning and implementation of
rehabilitation/reconstruction, practical steps should be taken to:
Ensure the needs, skills and capacities
of affected communities are incorporated in planning and
implementing rehabilitation work.
include women in housing design as well as construction; recognise
and incorporate women's traditional knowledge and experience in
managing natural resources.
on-going consultation with women in affected areas, women's bureaux,
and women's advocacy groups.
and take measures to ensure women can participate in reconstruction
and benefit from economic recovery packages
Ensure that women have the mobility to participate in reconstruction
and rehabilitation activities. Ensure meetings and events are held
at times and places where women can participate; Ensure family
caregivers have access to support.
informal social networks and link them to disaster-responding
agencies and offices.
women's groups to monitor disaster recovery projects.
and respond to women's needs for legal services in the areas of
housing, employment, and family relations
E.g. Deed newly constructed houses in
both the names of husband and wife, and land rights for women.
priority to social services, children's support systems and women's
highly vulnerable women such as single mothers, widows,
below-poverty, unemployed women and socially marginalised women in
reconstruction of damaged and new houses.
relief and rehabilitation for possible gender bias and inequities
that may develop over time.
avoid unintentional overburdening of women with multiple
responsibilities at home, work, and in the community.
as far as possible the degree to which relief and recovery assets
are equitably distributed.
Reconstruction must fully engage women
and ensure that women benefit from economic recovery and income
support programmes. Women's limited income generation and employment
opportunities should be expanded in the process of developing local
economies. In re-building livelihoods, practical steps should be
rehabilitation and reconstruction target economically active women
of all ages and social groups.
gender analysis into all empirical assessments.
collect or generate gender-specific data; conduct a thorough
analysis of damaged economic sectors (e.g. fishery, tourism,
agriculture) that identifies roles of women and identify areas for
income-generation projects that build non-traditional skills among
provide women with fair access to construction-related and other
non-traditional employment; include employment-relevant job
training; seek out women with technical qualifications for training
on specific projects such as overseeing housing construction.
women's income generating options in livelihood rebuilding plans.
make provision for self-employed /home-based women workers in plans.
access to grants and loans to re-build lost livelihoods to replace
damaged or destroyed tools, workspace, equipment, supplies, credit,
capital, markets and other economic resources.
measures to support women's multiple responsibilities as economic
providers and family workers.
work with employers to develop or strengthen 'family friendly'
policies for those needing time to apply for assistance, cope with
trauma and help injured family members; provide assistance to family
care givers to support them economically and ensure continued care
to the injured, children, and disabled.
and commit to gender accountability and monitoring measures.
monitor the percentage of women and men in construction, trade,
other employment; the numbers of disabled women trained; the
proportion of economic recovery grants and loan funds received by
women; the working conditions in private and public relief work
projects etc.; monitor and assess long term impacts on women and
girls of disrupted markets, forced sale of assets, involuntary
migration, increasing proportion of female-headed households etc.
- Ms. is indebted ITDG for these
Recommended reading: Elaine Enarson
(March 2001) Promoting Social Justice In Disaster Reconstruction:
Guidelines For Gender Sensitive And Community Based Planning,
drafted for the Disaster Mitigation Institute of Ahmedabad, Gujarat;
Gender and Disasters Network (January 2005) Gender Equality In
Disasters: Six Practical Rules For Working With Women And Girls;
Madhavi Malagoda Ariyabandu and Maithree Wickremesinghe (2003)
Gender Dimensions In Disaster management: A Guide For South Asia,
ITDG South Asia Publication
Footnotes: Information draws from the
recommended reading that is based on research and experiences from
disasters in South Asia. The recommended reading contains more
information and guidelines about policy and practical approaches for
addressing women's and gender issues.
tsunami hits Surveyor General's Dept.
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The Surveyor General's Department is
envisaging new legal problems with some 600,000 deeds being washed
away by the tsunami.
Compounding the problem, most of the
demarcations have also been destroyed by the onslaught of the waves
that swept the coastal areas, altering many of its features.
According to Senior Assistant Surveyor
General, A. K. Visumperuma, terrible alterations of the geographical
features of the coastal areas have occurred and that created fresh
problems for the department.
"An estimated number of over
600,000 land deeds have been destroyed by the sea and that means
where duplicates are also destroyed, we will have to launch a costly
and exhaustive re-demarcation programme," he says.
But that is only the beginning of
further trouble. With extensive sea erosion, the existing boundaries
such as fences and parapet walls too have been destroyed.
A fresh problem has surfaced with most
coastal dwellers being displaced - that of outsiders attempting to
encroach upon the coastal properties. "That is well beyond
us," says a licenced Surveyor, A. K. Gunathilleke. The state
must prevent encroachment while also removing squatters. "We
have huge problems when surveying land as squatters do not allow us
to peacefully do our job," Gunathilleke adds.
According to him, the department would
strictly confine itself to demarcating land on behalf of legal
dwellers. "Half the population living at the water's edge were
unauthorised dwellers and their constructions too were
illegal," Gunathilleke adds.
Before a demarcation exercise is
undertaken, what Senior Assistant Surveyor General, A. K.
Visumperuma suggests is the conducting of a special census on land
ownership in the coastal belt. "For this, we have no mandate
and the state should get other agencies to complete the task. Then
we can simply demarcate lands and prevent many a land dispute
erupting as a consequence of the ravages caused by the sea,"
Adding a new dimension to the problem,
the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) claims that in specific
areas - 15 in number - some 30 metres have eroded following the
The areas, recognised as "highly
vulnerable" under the Master Plan on Coastal Management and
need to be "ecologically rebuilt" to withstand extreme
weather and natural disasters.
Visumperuma meanwhile adds that with
one third of the country's population being coastal dwellers, land
disputes will rule the day if authorities do not take some quick
action and help the Surveyor General's Department to re-declare the
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry will
introduce a new law titled 'Tsunami Disaster Special Provisions Act'
relating to tsunami victims next month as an urgent bill. The bill
with retrospective effect will prevent any descendants, ascendants
and collaterals from making any legal claims to the property of the
dead or those listed missing following the December 26 tsunami.
The bill will also curtail the issuing
of death certificates of those who died consequent to the tsunami,
conferring of custody of the offspring of the deceased and
administration of their estates.
While the new legislation would address
areas such as the diseased persons' debts including loans, mortgages
and other sureties, conferring of rights on other qualifying parties
- it is not likely to curtail the land disputes that may flare up,
according to sources from the Surveyor General's Department.
"Preventing future claims is only
one aspect of the problem. We are concerned about ensuring the
existing rights and this is possible only if the survivors and
current occupants of the lands adopt a conciliatory attitude,"
According to Visumperuma, erosion has
been severe in the southern and eastern coasts with significant
alterations in the shoreline. "Some parts of the coastal lands
have been permanently lost and this has to be accepted," says
Director, Coast Conservation, Dr. R. A. D. B. Samaranayake.
predicts more problems
Attempts to create a strict buffer zone
of 100 metres from the shoreline could create further problems
with rights of citizens getting impinged, notes Environment
and Natural Resources Minister, A. H. M. Fowzie.
Fowzie who advocated the strict buffer
zone theory following the tsunami now feels that it could
displace many authorised dwellers and property owners and
create "tremendous social disquiet."
He said that the situation certainly
merited the maintenance of a strict buffer zone which possibly
extended beyond 100 metres but felt that while illegal
occupants could be relocated, relocation of legal owners as
well as those not directly affected could create fresh
"This could cause massive
migration from coastal land. We are talking about one third of
the country's population moving inland. Congestion could
increase and the resources could be stretched beyond
capacity," fears Fowzie.
around 30 meters in certain areas
The angry lashing of waves on Boxing
Day has caused considerable erosion - in identified 15 areas
to the extent of 30 meters.
According to Senior Geologist,
Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, E. R. Siriwardene, the
erosion has been enormous due to the speed at which the waves
crashed on to the coast - at some 800 kilometers per hour.
"The terrible impact of the
onslaught has created massive indentations which would
expedite eroding possibilities. The natural barriers have also
been battered," says Siriwardene.
He said that the extensive erosion in
15 areas was detected following a remapping exercise
undertaken by the bureau in the aftermath of the tsunami.
Four teams are currently engaged in the
exercise, and low lying coastal areas have been the worst
affected and include Galle, Dikwella, Tangalle, Pottuvil,
Trincomalee, Yala, Mullativu, Chalai, Hambantota, Ratgama,
Hikkaduwa and Payagala.
However, such extensive erosion is also
followed by a natural phenomenon of sand filling up the area
when nature restores its original design, he adds.
wake up call to Lanka
tsunami wave captured in Negombo
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The United Nations is to support a move
to expand Sri Lanka's continental shelf from 200 to 600 nautical
miles in southern Sri Lanka where the coast has been severely
indented following the tsunami.
The subject came up at plenary
discussions in Kobe, Japan during the World Summit on Disaster
Reduction where concerns of small island nations were extensively
Part VI (Articles 76-85) of the Law of
the Sea Convention (1982) and Articles 1 and 2 of the Geneva
Convention on the Continental Shelf defines it in reference to the
"The continental shelf of a
coastal state comprises the deep sea bed and sub soil of the
submarine areas that extend beyond the territorial sea throughout
the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of
the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from
the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is
measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not
extend up to that distance," it states.
Sri Lanka also received recognition as
a country situated in a "quake prone area" giving rise to
fresh concerns about the island's security.
According to Director, Geological Mines
and Minerals Bureau, Sarath Weerawarnakula, Sri Lanka is now
considered an island within the earthquake prone area. "We need
urgent national disaster management and mitigation plans," says
With one third of the population
occupying some 1,585 kilometers of coastal Sri Lanka, "the area
is in deep crisis," according to the Geological Chief. He also
fears for the safety of the massive reservoirs which may get
affected if the central hills experience serious quakes.
"Tremors are all what we have so
far experienced. But quakes would mean a new concern," he
warns, adding that Sri Lanka should be "readied" for
impending crisis situations.
Meanwhile, the Coast Conservation
Department says that if Kobe is bad news, it calls for quick
implementation of some salient aspects of the Integrated Coastal
Zone Management (ICZM), introduced in 1990 to address physical,
environmental and biological concerns of the coast.
The ICZM's key concerns are erosion
management, cessation of coral and sand mining, protection of scenic
coastal spots and the prevention of loss and degradation of coastal
natural habitats, he adds.
Under this, strict compliance was
required from the public to new regulations seeking to regulate
developmental activity within the 300-metre band.
According to Director, Coast
Conservation Department, Dr. R. A. D. B. Samaranayake, in these
"high hazard exclusion zones" of 60 meters from the
waterline constructions are banned except estuaries, boatyards and
aquaculture projects with required approval.
With increasing vulnerability of
low-lying coastlands, more bad news follows the Kobe meet. Not only
is Sri Lanka tsunami prone with a heavily indented shore but also is
"twice as vulnerable" to flooding.
The real threat, according to
climatologists is storm surges that are caused by rising sea levels
connected to quake activity, tsunami's immediate impact as well as
global warming - all of which make Sri Lanka's predicament a bad
A storm surge occurs when water levels
rise due to water piling up against a coast under strong onshore
winds such as intense storms and cyclones.
Alarm bells have begun to ring for Sri
Lanka following the startling revelations made in Kobe, says Science
and Information Technology Minister, Dr. Tissa Vitharana.
Calling for quick action to avert
tsunami repeats, Vitharana advocates strict implementation of the
100 metre buffer zone policy. "Geologists are predicting
similar events," Vitharana notes.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR has urged the
government to rethink the 100-meter buffer zone policy as it could
create "further displacement." "There could be a
swell in the ranks of the thousands displaced by the tsunami,"
calls for investment in environment
There exists a massive need for
investing in the environmental capital of natural resources
whether forests, mangroves or coral reefs, says Executive
Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus
Toepher told Kobe delegates that
environmental issues should form an integral part of disaster
reduction plans and be the center of all development activity.
"In addition to a tsunami early
warning system for the Indian Ocean, it is clear that a multi
hazard early warning system is also necessary to cover all
forms of natural and man-made disasters - from typhoons to
hurricanes to chemical accidents to oil spills," he
He promotes formulation of guidelines
for infrastructure construction with homespun
"criteria" that places an "ecosystem value on
homes and infrastructure."