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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. 

Monday, May 30, 2005

Nation-building with proper disaster management

Daily News: 26/05/2005" by Seetha Wijewardena, President, Sri Lanka Women Lawyers' Association

Our most pressing issue of peace has now been doubled by a natural disaster which has led to a two-fold nation-building program. It has forcefully entered to the discussion table. Peace and nation-building have become the main issues in focus. Peace and harmony was the main issue among other issues, up to December 26, 2004.

The major disaster has given more responsibility to rulers and panic to the public. Where do we stand? How would we manage the process of rebuilding our nation? are vital questions. Spinning in the right direction is mainly in the hands of the government.

After a tsunami attack of this magnitude where so many lives have been lost, the setting up of a Disaster Management Unit is of prime importance.

It should be manned by absolute professionals as, disaster management cannot be worked out by trial and error. Hence it should be a flawless effort, it is now the most appropriate time to install this unit in a well organised manner. This unit should be on the basis of the following framework.

It could be implemented as the central Disaster Management Authority (DMA) with a Director General as its head who will be responsible to the Head of State, with a team of consultants.

This unit should operate round the clock. The specially selected professional staff should be responsible to the controlling council - the decision making body under the Head of State. The controlling council which will be appointed will work under the Head of State and should consist of representatives of the Urban Development Authority, Police Department, Public Administration, Ministry of Justice and last but not least the Ministry of Education.

Sub committees may be appointed for the following categories, such as, water, electricity and other needs. Geological department, Provincial Councils, religious organisations, professional services, such as doctors, accountants, engineers, administrators, lawyers, ecologists, and volunteers are to be utilised for work.

The local and provincial governments will play a major role in coordination and support to the professionals. Now that Sri Lanka is no more earthquake-free, such committees and organisations should meet at least once a month to discuss strategy in case of emergency. Here it is prudent to have volunteers so that a mobilisation can be effected at short notice.

Mobilisation of action and implementation has to be properly monitored with officers in charge who will have access to field officers who will be properly identified.

In the disbursement of local and foreign funds, financial control of donated funds, private donations from recognised and registered social and welfare authorities and civil society collections and distribution can lead to mismanagement and or even misappropriation. Acceptance of funds direct by the victims or their controlling bodies has to be properly managed too. Unless a fine management is carved out there can be undue enrichment of some.

Areas and strategy

In any affected area, banking management units, evaluation committees and appropriate distribution should be effected. A funding control unit in the Disaster Management Authority is now an immediate necessity. Even for the receipt of funds and aid, by the Government or any other respective bodies.

Funds coming direct to the Government should be made known to the Disaster Management Authority through the Central Bank controlling unit, as we are aware funds utilised by the NGOs should be followed by project reports with provisions for administrative costs, which should be reported to DMA.

When the Central Disaster Management Authority identifies requirements they may have the unattended areas available for development. This could avoid conflicts and clashes in service activities.

Some requirements are:

* Development of physical and material areas.

* Development of industries.

* Eradication of health hazards and environmental problems.

* Development of the mindset of people on safety and precautions.

* Eradicating trauma.

Major requirements such as water, electricity, housing, health and education should be dealt with properly.

The following are also necessary:

* Forum for humanitarian development.

* Special unit for women and children and their psychological development, with proper protection.

* Property disputes settlement.

* Replacement of lost industries, occupations etc.

* Introduction of new methods of living.

* Personality and courage building by counselling.

* Faster mobilisation.

Quick action is required on the following:

1. Refurbishing of industries.

2. Adoption of a proper transportation system.

3. Eradicate crimes affecting victims of tsunami.

4. Improvements in health and hygiene.

5. Steps to avoid kidnapping or illegal adoption.

6. Make aware of misguidance.

7. Demarcation of boundaries.

8. Create areas for occupations or substantial income generating methods.

9. Fast settlements for various problems.

10. Physiological therapies.

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