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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. 

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Tsunami recovery process : Reorganization on way

Sunday Observer: 25/12/2005" by Jayantha Sri Nissanka

Over 8,000 tsunami survivors have complained to the Disaster Relief Monitoring Unit {DRMU} of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka about the violation of their rights. This stunning revelation was revealed by the DRMU after conducting over 800 group discussions in 1100 villages in 13 tsunami affected districts.

The DRMU was established by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka with the financial support of United Nations Development Program to address issues relating to tsunami rehabilitation.

However, the DRMU has attended to the 3,500 complaints. In order to address the issues, divisional level meetings were organised with Grama Niladharies and they were requested to give explanations.

DRMU Chairperson Lionel Fernando will handover the report to Prime Minister and Minister of Disaster Management Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Dr.Radhika Coomaraswamy and other relevant persons next week.

One of the major findings in the report is that people have not been adequately consulted by the Government and donors before starting projects. This report will greatly help the decision makers to totally reorganise the entire tsunami recovery process as it has given a true insight to the real problems faced by tsunami victims, DRMU Chairperson Lionel Fernando told the Sunday Observer.

He said that all most all the affected people have charged that the recovery process is very slow and often inefficient as a result of highly centralized Government machinery, inadequate need assessments and consultation, corruption, lack of transparency andaccountability.

Fernando noted that the affected communities are keen on seeing more transparent delivery mechanisms where victims will not be discriminated at the hands of individuals and officials and ensure the rights of beneficiaries.

The frustration with regard to the slow pace of resettlement has led people to express a desire to find their own lands and build their own houses with the support of relatives. People have expressed dissatisfaction with the transitional shelters as they are uncomfortable, unsanitary, unsafe and poor in healthcare. Women in particular have expressed that they have little privacy and find it difficult to live with grown up daughters any longer.

Chairperson Fernando noted that investigations found that certain people have been overly compensated with fishing equipment and gear and some people who were never in the trade are going fishing now.

Many people have also pointed out a mismatch between their needs and the equipment provided. He said that the fishing industry has received adequate attention but other industries have been overlooked such as agriculture. Adequate steps have not been taken to rehabilitate the agricultural sector which has been neglected in most of the affected districts so far.

While there are several loans and grant schemes available to those small and medium industries affected by tsunami, people are not aware of such facilities. Especially the women who were involved in small and medium enterprises such as coir work, pottery and retailing, seek loans and grants in order to start their work but many are unaware of the facilities available.

Those from middle class backgrounds in particular feel embarrassed to depend on relief from strangers and they fear that tsunami has created a culture of "dependence". They also blamed that certain religious organisations are carrying out relief work with the objective of religious conversion of the affected people.

Authorities working at the local level frequently express frustration as the information flow from the Central Government is very slow, unclear and often conflicting. Many officials also feel that absence of disaster response and management plans at the district and divisional levels greatly impede their work and propose that such plans be developed soon.

INGOs and NGOs share their difficulties accessing relevant local authorities. Many believe the existing district coordinating comities are ineffective in the recovery process, Fernando concluded.

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