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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. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sikh Donations left to rot at Port in Sri Lanka

SSNews: 04/08/2005"

When Tsunami hit South East Asia the ever big hearted Sikhs as usual were the first to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Many teams collected aid in the United Kingdom and one amongst them was the Sikh Community from Birmingham.

Through voluntary community efforts they had managed to collect 2 containers full of medical supplies, clothing and food for victims of the tsunami disaster. Now these 2 Containers have been left to rot in a Sri Lankan port.

The Sri Lankan authorities have impounded these, two 40ft-long containers packed with vital supplies as part of a crackdown against drug and weapons trafficking. The failure to get the supplies to those who badly need them has left the Birmingham fundraisers heartbroken.

Lakhdeep Singh Panesar, from Solihull, who coordinated the relief effort, said: "I shall never do anything for charity like this again. I'm so disheartened.

"I've made countless calls to officials over there but I've been ignored.

"It would have been better to have sent money to a designated person instead of sending aid."

Mr Panesar and others among Birmingham's Sikh community worked 12 hours a day to fill the two containers with medical aid from Heartlands Hospital and food and clothing donations by the public.

He told how he encouraged fellow members of the Ramgharia Sikh Temple, on Graham Street, in Hockley, to help sort the donations.

He then used his shipping company, Pan Line Ltd, to send the aid free of charge to the disaster zone in February.

But when other containers began to flood in to Sri Lanka from around the world, the authorities found some were filled with drugs, ammunition or other illegal goods sent by criminal groups.

To prevent further unwanted items spreading through the country, the Sri Lankan government stopped all aid containers from leaving Colombo, the country's capital.

Amongst them are the two Birmingham containers.

Ramgharia Sikh Temple member Perminder Singh had originally planned to visit Sri Lanka to oversee the aid distribution.

He said: "I am still prepared to go over there but the aid is still sitting in Colombo and there is nothing we can do about it."

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London has confirmed that it is looking into the case.

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