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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Reconstruction not matching fund flow, say EU delegates

Online edition of the Daily Mirror: Members of the European Parliament (MEP) who toured the tsunami-affected areas of Galle and Trincomalee to observe the implementation of projects funded by the European Union expressed surprise at noticing that despite the size of the problem and the amount of funds available, little reconstruction work had been commenced.

This appeared to be due mostly to the absence of a clear perspective on land ownership or clearance, especially given the new circumstances created by the obligation to re-locate outside of the immediate coastal areas, they said.

The MEPs felt that faster decisions on the field could be easier with a coordinated central or provincial planning from the government, a press release by the European Union stated.

A working group from the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia and the SAARC region visited Sri Lanka recently. The group led by Ms. Neena Gill (UK), Chairperson of the Delegation included six other Members of the European Parliament from five different political parties, Jan Mulder of the Netherlands, Jo Leinen and Thomas Mann from Germany, Ms. Jean Lambert of the UK, Eoin Ryan of Ireland and Ivo Belet from Belgium.

The MEPs visited the Parliament Monday, where they called on Deputy Speaker Gitanjana Gunawardana and also met Housing and Construction Minister Ferial Ashraff, Cultural Affairs and National Heritage Minister Vijitha Herath and representatives of all political parties. They also met Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP MP Milinda Moragoda.

However the group appreciated the basic relief operations carried out including the maintaining of an overall acceptable level of public health.

The MEPs noted that the affected persons showed lots of energy and were optimistic despite their sufferings. Good examples cited were the youth taking on responsibilities in education and public health in the welfare centres and fishermen repairing their boats with the assistance Fisheries Ministry staff.

The group also felt that the information on the needs and actions should be channeled to easily to ensure that NGO aid was directed to areas that needed it most. Besides reconstruction itself, action from local or central authorities to provide the necessary means to the tsunami-affected to regain their livelihoods by themselves was a must, the MEPs observed. The Parliament members had also felt that attention was required to make sure children were able to attend school, including the provision of transport where necessary. The group noticed that the public generosity for the tsunami victims might over-shadowing the plight of the war-effected who have been enduring similar sufferings for several years.

The MEPs decided to commit themselves in their parliamentary activity to make the Europeans aware that there were people in other countries requiring help, so as to avoid creating imbalances and tension and contribute to a better life for all. They will communicate their conclusions to the European Commission, which manages the budgets for humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

The group also had extensive discussions with a number NGOs and UN agencies working with tsunami-affected as well as war-affected refugees. These professionals confirmed that they had been able to carry out their relief operations in the LTTE-controlled areas as well as in government-controlled areas without encountering any obstacles.

The Parliamentarians expressed their support to the establishment of a joint mechanism to ensure equitable allocation of funds for reconstruction to all districts and communities according to their needs.

Logistical problems and the lack of communications infrastructure appeared to be a major difficulty, particularly in the North and the East, where the absence of UN flights was a major hindrance, the group stated.

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