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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, March 19, 2005

ADB wants Sri Lanka to privatize and charge money for water given to farmers

Sri Lanka, 3 - 19 - 2005 13:48 GMT, Colombo Page News Desk, Sri Lanka:
Mahaweli and River Basin Development Minister Maithripala Sirisena today disclosed that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has put a condition on the Sri Lankan government to agree to privatize water in order to receive ADB assistance.

He said the ADB wants to fix a price for water used by farmers to cultivate their fields. This has become an obstacle to preparing a national water management policy.

Addressing participants at a workshop on water management in Kandy today, the Minister said his government refused such conditions on receiving aid.

“We have been looking for assistance to draw up a scientifically viable water management policy and the Asian Development Bank’s agreement to provide financial aid in this respect has been there for about ten years (from 1995).

“We know there are several conditions put forward by the ADB to provide financial aid. This is why we could not draw up a national policy so far on water. Among the conditions put by the ADB included that we privatize water and charge money for water given to farmers for agricultural purpose. We totally refused to agree to such conditions.

“We are now planning to seek the views of the general public to bring about a national policy on water,” the Minister said.

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Tsunami and its implications for civil and structural engineers

The following article that appeared in the ISLAND on 03/19/05 was sent in by Ananda

By Felix Weerakkody
The recent Tsunami brings into focus the devastating consequences of earthquakes and their effect on Civil and Structural Engineering works. Prior to the tsunami, the buildings in Sri Lanka were designed and constructed on the assumption that Sri Lanka was too far distant from tectonic plate boundaries and therefore not susceptible to earthquakes. Consequently Structural Design Engineers were not required to design to a Seismic Code of Practice and structures designed and constructed to date have not been designed to withstand earthquakes of any magnitude.
Risk of earthquakes
The article titled "How Vulnerable Is Sri Lanka To Earth Tremors?" by Professor C. B. Dissanayake ( Daily News of 31st December 2004,) raises concerns with regard to future structural designs. Prof. Dissanyake draws attention to the formation of a new plate boundary close to the South Western coast of Sri Lanka stating that Sri Lanka is no longer far away from a hyperactive plate boundary. He proceeds to state that a strong earthquake hitting Sri Lanka cannot be ruled out and that in future builders and architects will have to bear this fact in mind.
Prof. Tissa Vitharana, the Minister for Science & Technology in the article ‘Tsunami: some misconceptions and misrepresentations ‘(Daily News 12th February 2005) states "in view of the separation fault that is developing about 400 kms south of Sri Lanka in the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, both local and foreign geologists have warned that the present increasing trend of earth tremors would lead eventually to damaging earthquakes in Sri Lanka.
It is also relevant to consider the obviously strong earthquake in Sri Lanka in 1615. Considering the fact that the population was small and that there were no multi storey structures, the destruction indicates that it was a major one.
If risk from earthquakes now becomes inherent or inevitable due to the formation of a new plate and its proximity to Sri Lanka, it has to be faced and dealt with. It is imperative that appropriate measures be taken. The basis on which Structural Engineering has developed is that it deals with risk and uncertainty by simplifying the structural analysis and codifying the essence of knowledge gained through a rigorous process of analysis and research.
Considering both the earthquake of 1615 and the concerns expressed by Prof Dissanayke and the Minister for Science & Technology, could Civil and Structural Engineers continue to design to a code of practice that does not take seismic loading into account? Should they incorporate seismic design loads into their analysis and use a seismic design code of practice?
What of the existing structures, particularly the high rise reinforced concrete structures which are known to be more vulnerable to earthquakes due to the low ductility of concrete?
Earthquake Engineering
Since the first world conference in Earthquake Engineering held in 1956, there have been significant developments in knowledge of the nature of earthquakes and the manner in which structures respond to earthquakes. The dissemination and collation of knowledge backed by research has enabled analytical techniques and codes of practice to be developed. These have been used to design and construct structures which can withstand earthquakes.
The new Eurocode 8 which addresses the design of structures for earthquake resistance adopts a design procedure to satisfy a life safety objective. This implies that a structure may be damaged but that it must not collapse. In this way loss of life can be prevented. This objective is achieved by designing a structure which combines essential characteristics ie. Strength to resist the earthquake forces and ductility to enable the energy transmitted to the structure by or from the earthquake to be dissipated. The code also recognizes the fact that existing structures may be found to be vulnerable and consequently need to be assessed and retrofitted to withstand future earthquakes.
The Professional Civil /Structural engineer
The structural design of buildings and other civil engineering work is carried out by civil and structural engineers who can be categorized as Professional Engineers. A professional is one who is in possession of specialized knowledge and skills judiciously collated from a continuously developing, vast and complex body of knowledge through a process of rigorous training and study. They belong to a professional body which requires them to follow a specific code of conduct in their professional affairs and directs them towards social good. Their advice is sought by clients who accept their guidance without question. Civil and structural engineers belong to such professional bodies as the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka or its equivalent such as the Institution of Civil Engineers or the Institution of Structural Engineers etc. In the execution of structural design work a Structural Design Engineer is required to conform to a code of conduct laid down by the professional body to which he belongs. Some relevant excerpts from the Institution of Structural Engineer’s Code of Conduct are that its members, Have regard to the public interest and to the interests of all those affected by their professional activities. Take reasonable care to ensure the safety and serviceability of structural engineering work entrusted to them. The Institution of Structural Engineers defines Structural Engineering as the Science and art of designing and making with economy and elegance buildings, bridges, frameworks and other similar structures so that they can safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected.
Some cynics might say that a vast number of buildings are neither elegant nor economical but no ‘Professional’ Engineer will deliberately compromise on safety. He/she will design a structure able to safely resist the forces to which it may be subjected during its design life.
Legal implications, negligence and the standard of skill and care
In Civil Law, liability can arise under the tort of negligence for the death or injuries that may occur as a consequence of an act of omission or incompetence on the part of a professional in the course of his profession. The standard of skill and care required of a professional in the execution of his profession was established in the case of Bolam v Friern Barnet Hospital Management Committee [1957] 1 WLR 582 and further exemplified in the case Eckersley v Binnie and Partners [1988] 18 Con. LR 1 which is more relevant to Engineers. The judgement in this case reads thus. A professional man should command the corpus of knowledge which forms part of the professional equipment of ordinary members of his profession. He should not lag behind other ordinary, assiduous and intelligent members of his profession in knowledge of new advances, discoveries and developments in his field. He should be alert to the hazards and risks inherent in any professional task he undertakes to the extent that other ordinary competent members of his profession would be alert. He must bring to the professional tasks he undertakes no less expertise, skill and care that ordinarily competent members would bring but need bring no more. The standard is that of the reasonable average. The law does not require of a Professional man that he be a paragon combining the qualities of polymath and prophet. A professional is therefore required not only to avail himself of current and new knowledge with respect to his profession but also to be alert to the hazards and risks inherent in any task he undertakes. Failure to do so could leave him vulnerable to litigation. A claim for negligence based on ‘the duty of care’ against a professional may require the following.

It takes a minimum of 7 years of study, training and skill for an engineer to acquire the first of his professional qualifications. Along with the privilege of having a few letters after one’s name comes the duties, obligations and liabilities of the profession. We now have a new generation of Sri Lankans who are better informed, and are well aware of the universality of common law, technical standards and rights of the individual. The word tsunami and earthquake are entrenched in the national consciousness. No longer will it be possible for any individual to plead ignorance or excuse lower levels of technology. Inhabitants and owners of any structure will be aware of safety issues. An expert of the calibre of Prof. Dissanayake has stated that there is a distinct possibility of seismic activity affecting Sri Lanka. Under such circumstances a Structural Engineer who continues to design without taking seismic conditions into account could be said to be failing in "duty of care" Should he not utilize the body of knowledge available with regard to seismic design when executing future design work? If he fails to use a seismic design code and in the event of an earthquake which results in injury or loss of life will there not be a direct link between his work and the consequences? His conduct would then be considered ‘likely to result in the adverse consequences’. Therefore a structural engineer who continues to design as in the past may unknowingly place himself in a susceptible position and be liable for legal action. At present it is not mandatory that the structural design of any building be executed by a certified and registered structural engineer. Furthermore there is no mandatory requirement to archive a set of the structural design drawings and design calculations for future reference if a retrofit is required.

These are some of the issues that require immediate attention. One can only hope that steps will be taken to appoint a group of professionals to consider the following.

So that structural designs for multi-storey buildings be undertaken only by professionals certified by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka. and copies of all design drawings and design notes to be archived in a repository so that in the event of a calamity, investigators will have the information to protect the innocent and compensate the affected.


It may be relevant to consider the statistics obtained from some recent earthquakes. Iran (Bam, 6.3 on the Richter scale on the 26 Dec 2003 with 30,000 fatalities) India (Bhuj Gujarat 7.6 on the Richter scale on the 26 Jan 2001 with 19,000 fatalities) Turkey (Izmit 7.4 on the Richter scale on the Aug 17 1999 with 16,000 fatalities).

In the aftermath of these three events, investigations conducted on the collapsed buildings clearly indicated that the vast numbers of deaths and injuries were caused by the collapse of buildings that did not conform to required structural design standards. The damage was compounded by shoddy construction where it was obvious that specifications had been disregarded or compromised.

In Bhuj, Gujarat, whilst some structures were able to withstand the earthquake and remained intact, other multi storey reinforced concrete buildings were subject to complete collapse, indicating that poor quality construction had aggravated the damage. Soon after the earthquake, 37 cases were filed against builders, architects and engineers for culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy.

There cannot be a statute of limitations for liability where poor design and construction leads to loss of life.

It may be relevant to compare the earthquake that struck California on the 23 of December 2003 with the earthquakes mentioned above and in particular with the earthquake that struck Iran. The magnitude of the earthquake to strike California which was 6.3 on the Richter scale was of the same magnitude as the earthquake in Iran. In the California earthquake there were only three fatalities. There were 30,000 recorded deaths in Iran. The principle reason for the very low incidence of fatalities in California is that the buildings are designed to earthquake resistant design codes and constructed to the required specifications under strict supervision and stringent standards.

In conclusion I would like to quote Prof Tissa Vitharna (Daily News 12th February 2005) "In the above context the ongoing reconstruction programme should not be a return to the past with all its dangers to life and property. It must be a scientifically planned modern approach that would ensure minimal loss of life and property in the future".

Felix Weerakkody B.Sc.(Eng.) Hons.(Sri Lanka), Grad.Dip.Struct.Eng.(Australia), MBA(Sri Lanka), FICE (U.K), C.Eng. FIE (Sri Lanka), MIE (Australia.) CP.Eng, is working overseas at present as a senior lecturer in the Institute of Technology Brunei. He has over 30 years experience in civil engineering design, construction and management having managed a variety of diverse projects in Sri Lanka, Brunei, Australia and Indonesia. Major projects executed include large housing schemes, irrigation and river diversion schemes, roads and bridges, water supply, flood control and drainage schemes, industrial complexes and multi storied buildings.

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Promising start to recovery

The following was circulated by Brennon Jones through the lk-relief mailing list
Published in the Sri Lankan"Daily Mirror"Friday, March 18, 2005: by Margareta Wahlstrom
Nearly three months after the tsunami, Sri Lanka is gradually shifting out of the emergency phase as most immediate needs, for shelter, food, healthcare, adequate water and sanitation and other essential services, in affected communities are being met. But now the country is moving into an even more challenging phase of longer-term reconstruction and the restoration of lives and livelihoods. This will require maximum coordination and communication not just between the Sri Lankan government, international agencies, NGOs and the donor community, but with the tsunami-affected population, itself.
There have been some notable achievements in the emergency phase. The swift, compassionate and effective response of Sri Lankans backed up by the international community successfully ensured no additional tsunami-related deaths or injuries occurred, nor serious outbreaks of disease or increases in malnutrition. The Sri Lankan Government took the lead, immediately placing all of its military, administrative and logistical assets at the reliefcommunity's disposal and rapidly instituting compensation schemes, which were recently increased, for tsunami-affected people. The UN's own response was rapid as well given that considerable UN agency staff and relief stocks were already in country in support of development and peace related programs.
A quick needs assessment was undertaken by the UN agencies and NGOs at the turn of the year. It resulted in an appeal for nearly US$200,000,000 in emergency aid, for every thing from food and shelter to health services and emergency rehabilitation of education facilities, for the initial six-month emergency phase. The response from the international community was swift, with all the requested funds -- and even a bit more -- committed and, substantive already disbursed or available as needed in on-going relief programs. The results of this financial help are readily quantifiable: UN agencies and NGOs have supported the government in feeding more than 900,000 tsunami-affected people and providing them cash allowances. Some 142,000 displaced people -- those not living with friends and relatives -- are being provided temporary shelter in 315 different welfare centres or camps, with adequate health care and water and sanitation facilities, as well as basic necessities such as mosquito nets, soap and toiletries, pots and otherhousehold items. Health clinics and schools are being rehabilitated or rebuilt, and students newly outfitted and back to class. In addition, tsunami-affected Sri Lankans are being given access, as necessary, to arange of other services -- from replacement documents, for those who lost identification cards and essential certificates, to psych-social counseling to deal with the lingering effects of trauma.
For sure, the emergency phase has not been flawless. At moments there appeared to have been a bit of a humanitarian traffic jam of international NGOs and aid workers, albeit an exceedingly well-intentioned one. In record numbers international agencies, NGOs, donor organizations and individuals rushed to help the Sri Lankan people. It was inevitable, given this swift and overwhelming response, that there would be instances of lack of communication, lack of overview and planning and the distribution of not very suitable relief items. Some inappropriately sized and designed tents come most immediately to mind. The government, as well, has experienced its own operational and coordinating challenges in accommodating this overwhelming international response. One example is the long delays in the customs clearance process for much needed relief goods arriving at Colombo's port. The Government is also faced with the impatience of many homeless people who after having suffered the loss of family members and property, are anxious to stabilize their lives in new homes.
The challenge to keep the momentum of providing temporary and permanent housing is onethat theinternational community shares with the national government. Currently, a second phase countrywide needs assessment is underway with the participation of the government, international financial institutions, theUN and its agencies, civil society and the private sector. It will identify appropriate longer-term strategies for Sri Lanka to rebuild tsunami-affected areas over the coming years and lead to a new appeal for financial aid to implement it. Concurrently, the United Nation is starting to prepare its transition strategy from relief to recovery to dovetail with the national reconstruction plan that is to emerge once the assessments are finalized.
One thing the Sri Lankan people should know as this new phase in the tsunami response begins is that the international community is just as committed to assist them in the long and tough reconstruction process as it has been in the emergency relief period. But, for sure, considerable challenges lie ahead. On a visit to Batticaloa District last week, it was easy to identify some concerns that must be kept in mind. One immediate need, which quickly became apparent, is that the tsunami-affected population must be kept well informed about the relief, relocation and reconstruction processes and the options afforded them. They must also be directly involved in the decision-making processes regardingtheir future. Another is that the very definition of a tsunami-affected person must be continually re-evaluated. For example, many Sri Lankans who suffered no direct harm from the tsunami's immediate destruction, but live close by, now feel the cruel economic effects of the destruction. Their needs must be taken into consideration.
Clearly it will take time for the government to make conclusive decisions on anumber of thorny issues. They include the ultimate width of the buffer zone and the allocation of land -- even decisions on the type and styles of both semi-permanent and permanent housing. Experience has taught that it is in this interim period, when full scale relief operations are winding down, and reconstruction efforts are only slowly getting underway, that misunderstanding and tensions can build. This is particularly true when uncertainty exists for many tsunami affected families as to where they will permanently live and how they will earn their livings. This is the time when a true humanitarian response requires the government, national NGOs and the international actors to listen especially carefully to the concerns of all those directly and indirectly affected by the tsunami and to respond with compassion and, most of all, equity.
Margareta Wahlstrom is the United Nation's Special Coordinator for the UN Response to Tsunami-Affected Countries

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Road Network Assessment-UNJLC

UNJLC -Road Network Assessment of the Tsunami Struck Areas:

The main task of the assessment team was to analyse the capacity of the national transport fleet to cater for the three phases of recovery and the normal national transport requirements. The initial concept was to utilise the top down approach in the collection of data in order to produce a comprehensive assessment of the transport capabilities in Sri Lanka.
Initially the Terms of Reference seemed reasonable and attainable within the time frame envisaged. With the benefit of hindsight it is now clear that the terms of reference did not consider the limitations and complexity of the government structures in Sri Lanka. In view of this, consideration should be given to including a UN member with local knowledge or Sri Lankan national on the assessment team. No consideration was given to the political or military situation in the country. The LTTE problem will also have a major influence on the future of this country.
Three critical factors will determine the requirement for transport in the rebuilding of Sri Lanka. They are timescale, materials and labour. In order to conduct a statistical assessment it is essential to know the tonnage to be moved and the timescale for repair and reconstruction. These two crucial factors are still not available. It is now generally accepted that the relief and reconstruction will take place over a minimum of three years.
The Centre for National Operations (CNO) was established on the 29th of December 2004 and was disbanded on 4 Feb 05. TAFREN, the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation, is one of the two task forces set up by the President. A meeting was held on Thurs 17 Feb with The Government Task Force to Rebuild the Nation (TAFREN). This was the first and only meeting held between UNJLC and TAFREN and was held in TAFREN offices in Colombo. It was admitted that TAFREN had NOT considered any of the transport issues when drafting the National Rebuilding Action Plan. The Government Plan has not been received as of 8 Mar 05. The Government has announced that it will present its final reconstruction plan on March 15.
Individuals or very small companies with less than five trucks own the vast majority of the cargo transport fleet in this country. Without centralised records it is almost impossible to quantify the national transport fleet. The present cost of transport is acceptable, however it is anticipated that prices will rise as demand for transport increases.
The total vehicle population figures received from the Dept of Transport are deemed to be unreliable. A government spokesman confirmed this fact.
The damage to the road network caused by the recent tsunami was concentrated on the East, South and Northern coasts. Much of this damage has been repaired to allow traffic to flow again. Many of the repairs are of a temporary nature and require upgrading on a permanent basis.
The general rail infrastructure is in serious need of rehabilitation. The problems faced by Sri Lanka Rail are many, including an insufficient number and poor performance of the rolling stock, decaying and weak rail track, an out-dated centralised traffic control and communications system and poor worker productivity.
It is essential that maximum use be made of regional ports for the importation of building materials to cater for phases two and three of the National Rebuilding Plan. The concentration of all these goods into Colombo would possibly create a critical situation for the road and rail network due to the limited capacity of both networks. Road congestion and pollution are already at a critical level in Colombo.
There is also no major problem with storage capacity. In the coastal regions where warehouses were not available Rubb Halls and WiikHalls have or are being erected.
The present road conditions and especially the temporary bridges in particular restrict the use of heavy lift vehicles. Serious consideration should be given to upgrading the roads and bridges prior to utilising heavy vehicles during the reconstruction phase.
Detailed analysis and planning is required by a Government Task Force to ensure adequate transport is available to support their rebuilding Plan. Any shortfall of transport assets must be identified in time. The extended use of sea and rail to distribute cargo must also be considered.
The age, mechanical condition and configuration of the national commercial transport fleet are matters for concern. The condition of these vehicles would not be acceptable in most European countries. However these vehicles are still operational. Direct donations of vehicles to the government should be considered to increase and modernise the transport fleet. Soft loans, tax incentives and other mechanisms could be introduced to encourage the private transport sector to update their vehicles and increase their fleet size.
This assessment did not consider in detail the political situation in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka recently celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the cease-fire, however the recent war has left many problems in this country particularly in the North and East.
Generally, no shortage of transport was noted in the country. Approximately 50% of the cargo transport fleet was fully utilised prior to the tsunami. Since then the usage has only increased by a small percentage and there is still excess capacity. In conclusion the slow response from Government and the absence of urgency to deal with the Tsunami damage may result in a prolonged recovery phase. It is generally accepted that the current transport fleet, with minor adjustments and natural replacements will be capable of supporting the National Rebuilding Plan.

Download the full report

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Tsunami aid must be linked to specific projects: ADB

Online edition of the Daily News:
TOKYO, Thursday (AFP) - Nearly three months after the Indian Ocean tsunamis, the main challenges are how to link aid pledges to concrete projects and keep up world attention, the Asian Development Bank's vice president said ahead of a conference on the disaster.

Representatives from five countries most affected by the tsunami, 28 aid donor nations and other groups will meet in Manila on Friday to identify needs and try to plug a hole in any under-funded projects.

"The big challenge going forward is how to connect all the money and a spirit of enormous generosity worldwide to specific projects," said ADB vice president Geert van der Linden, who was in Japan to attend a seminar.

The ADB expects large donors like Japan to continue playing a key role in sectoral rebuilding, as it has already been helping with water and power supply in Sri Lanka, he said.

Although the United States was a major player in initial relief operations, distributing aid to isolated stretches of Indonesia, Van der Linden said he had received no indications of US involvement in sector-specific reconstruction.

The Manila conference will examine detailed sector-by-sector damage and needs assessments for India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives and seek ways to prevent corruption in delivering aid, he said.

The aim of the conference is also to keep world attention on the challenges faced by the tsunami-hit areas in rebuilding social infrastructure and helping local fishery, farming and service sectors regain sources of income.

Billions of dollars were pledged in the aftermath of the tsunami and the United Nations has said that for once, donors were making good on their promises.

A report jointly prepared by the World Bank, ADB, United Nations and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation has put reconstruction costs in Sri Lanka at 1.5 billion dollars and India at 1.2 billion dollars, with damage in Maldives estimated at 470 million dollars.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Divisions over tsunami new town

BBC NEWS World South Asia : The first new town to be built in Sri Lanka after December's Indian Ocean tsunami is facing opposition - from some of the very people it is designed to help

The new town - Siri Bapora - is designed to house the residents of Hambantota, which has a 90% Muslim majority - and was one of the places hardest hit in the disaster, with more than 4,500 people killed.

The government plans to rehouse over 5,000 Sinhalese Buddhists from villages outside of the Hambantota area, whose homes were also destroyed, at the new site.

But residents are concerned that mixing communities of different religions and cultures will only cause problems.

"Muslim people are up at about five in the morning for the prayers, they are announced on the mic - so that will be a disturbance for these people," Mr Khalid, one of the Hambantota Muslims affected by the tsunami, told BBC World Service's Reporting Religion programme.

"The [Buddhists] on the other side will be fast asleep. When they get the call, they are doing the drumming and announcing, that will disturb the people during prayers - so it is a mutual thing.

"So there is a possibility of some flare-up."

Different beliefs

The 500-acre Siri Bapora project is the first of its kind in the country, and could become the blueprint for the rehousing of the one million people left homeless across the island.

10,000 Muslims are currently living in refugee camps in Hambantota. Siri Bapora is to be the first of 16 new towns to be built in Sri Lanka.

Around 10% of Hambantoba's population is Sinhalese, and the two communities have co-existed in the town for over 1,000 years, with many intermarriages within the community.

But it is the Sinhalese coming from other areas, and possessing different cultural beliefs, that some are afraid of.

Hambantota's residents currently live in refugee camps
"Their environment is different, the Sinhalese movement is different," Mr Khalid added.

"Near the town area, their people are educated, and they just take it as a bump.

"Here it won't do. They're local people, and they won't like their daughters marrying a Muslim, or Muslims marrying a Sinhalese girl."

The plan for Hambantota has been facing opposition for some time now.

As well as fears over religious tensions, some residents are also unhappy that the new town will be much further inland.

Their livelihood previous to the tsunami was fishing, but Siri Bapora will be sited three kilometres from the coast.

Some believe there are dark motives behind these decisions.

The Sinhalese being moved in from outside Hambantota are from districts where the government - a coalition of three parties - has the majority support.

But in Hambantota, the opposition United National Party are in power.

Teem Samidon, the head of a local mosque partially destroyed in tsunami, believes by moving Muslims out of town, the government is trying to win the Hambantota parliamentary seat.

"They want to break this support - they don't want the support to continue forever," he said.

"But it's a very strong seat for the UNP. So they want to scatter all the Muslims into certain areas.

"It looks to me as if some disruption is going to happen."

Future together

However, at the government office in Hambantota, Mr Pira Siri, the divisional secretariat, said he did not expect any cultural clashes.

"No such problem will arise," he added.

"Muslims and Sinhalese are already living together. So people are discouraging the resettling of people, because some politicians think they will lose votes when their supporters have to move out of their political area.

Some residents are unhappy they will be unable to fish
"But apart from this, I don't see any other problems with the issue."

RK Wilson, a refugee who lost his wife and three daughters in the tsunami, said he believed the future could be peaceful.

"Even though I am Sinhalese, I have always been friends with Muslims," he said.

"I want to stay in the same community. I don't want to move to another place.

"The Sinhalese and Muslims have been living together peacefully.

"We want to carry on living peacefully in the future too."

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Parliament and Public Accountability in Sri Lanka

Online edition of Daily News-Friday, 18 March 2005: "Book review: Critical insights into governance and public sector

Parliament and Public Accountability in Sri Lanka
Author: Prof. W.A. Wiswa Warnapala

Prof. Wiswa Warnapala, currently Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, is an academic of distinction. He has written a number of books on politics, governance and civil service administration in Sri Lanka. His current publication entitled, "Parliament and Public Accountability in Sri Lanka" is the most recent addition to a growing corpus.

In a book running to 336 pages of text, he has concentrated his attention on the origins, development and the current state of financial administration in government with particular emphasis on the Parliamentary Control of public finance.

In nine chapters and an introduction, Prof. Warnapala has dealt with the varied and relevant areas, such as the structure and functioning of Parliamentary Committees; financial procedures; The Public Accounts Committee; The Committee on Public Enterprises; the Role of the Auditor General; and the Role of the Treasury.

He has then gathered up all the threads in two concluding chapters entitled "Comparative Overview" and "Concept of Good Governance and Public Accountability." A very useful and comprehensive Bibliography comes at the very end of the book.

In his book, Prof. Warnapala traces the influence and impress of British Parliamentary traditions and experience on our own Parliament which are reflected in numerous ways. Even the Standing Orders of Parliament have been formulated on the basis of the Westminster tradition.

He also demonstrates the strengths of these traditions and their influence on many Commonwealth legislatures. He then traces the development of Sri Lanka's Parliamentary institutions from the earliest days of British rule, referring to the Legislative Council, the State Council and the current Parliament.

Much effort has gone into outline the historical development of these bodies and the changes that took place through various phases of negotiations and struggle in which the legislative body acquired increasing power and gradually began to represent the people in the modern democratic sense.

A great deal of research and scholarship have gone into the unraveling of this complex story thereby turning this took into a valuable work of reference, with dates, names and phases clearly placed in the overall historical setting.


Beyond the subject of the evaluation of the legislature, Prof. Warnapala has recorded several matters of great importance and interest.

These include the setting up of the Consolidated Fund and the Contingencies Fund; the growth and expansion of Parliamentary Committees, with special emphasis on more recent developments such as the setting up of the Committee on Public Enterprises and Consultative Committees covering the work of various ministries of government.

He has also comprehensively dealt with the role and function of the Treasury in national financial management, the role of the Auditor General and the gradual evolution of that Office from its earliest British roots to its current status, and the complex nature of the responsibilities and inter-relationships that pervade and prevail in the course of the functioning of the Treasury; the Auditor General and the relevant Parliamentary Committees, most notably the Public Accounts Committee and The Committee on Public Enterprise.

Into this picture, he brings in the responsibilities of the ministries in proper financial management and the role of the Secretary to the Ministry as the Chief Accounting Officer.

The book is valuable for a number of reasons. These include giving the reader an overall picture of the manifold aspects of Public Finance; the historical evolution of institutions; the setting out of the relationships between the relevant institutions; recording of important names, dates and phases; the conducting of a comparative analysis of Sri Lanka's institutions and those of some Commonwealth Countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some countries in the Carribean, as well as those countries within S.A.A.R.C. such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal; and the relating of all these to the concept and expectations of good governance.

At the same time, Professor Warnapala has paid particular attention to the role of the Auditor General and the responsibilities and functioning of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament of which he was Chairman from 1995-2000.

His insights therefore are particularly valuable because they combine academic research and learning and a deep interest in his subject with the practical experience derived from chairing perhaps the most important Committee of Parliament.

In his chapter on the Auditor General, Prof. Warnapala places matters in historical perspective tracing the institutions of the office in Britain and then sourcing its inception in Sri Lanka to the time of Governor North who had created the office of the Auditor and Accounts General as early as 1798, and the conversion of the office as a separate department from 1815.

He then traces subsequent developments which are in turn related to gradual constitutional development, and brings the story upto contemporary times, where the role of the Auditor General is seen to be considerably enhanced.

The reasons for these enhancements are given, the main one being the growth of government and its by now exponential financial outlays when compared to the pre-independence situation.

Professor Warnapala quotes Sir Ivor Jennings on the role of the Auditor General. Jennings had in earlier times, seen the Auditor General's functions as relating to monitoring efficiency and regularity in the area of public finance and reporting on accounting procedures.

He has gone on to state that "It is not his business to decide whether the country is receiving value for its money." But this has all changed and today the Auditor General conducts value for money audits.

Prof. Warnapala also discusses the issue of the Auditor General and government policy. Here, he quotes Mr. Bernard Soysa, M.P., a former distinguished Chairman of The Public Accounts Committee.

According to Mr. Soysa's views, the Auditor General ".. is allowed to comment on policy from a financial point of view, and it does not mean that he can determine policy."

While this is basically true, Prof. Warnapala shows how increasingly the Auditor General has come to sometimes question wider areas of policy than was the practice of few years ago. In overall terms, what is stressed is the Auditor General's independence of reporting and independence of investigation.

In dealing with the Public Accounts Committee too, Prof. Warnapala, in accordance with the framework of his book, places it in its historical context.

Having done so, he marshals many relevant and useful insights into the responsibilities and the working of the Committee. In doing so, he quotes from the 20th Edition of Erskine May 1983 as follows:

"The Public Accounts Committee does not seek to concern itself with policy; its interest is in whether policy is carried out efficiently, effectively and economically. Its main functions are to see that public moneys are applied for the purposes prescribed by Parliament, that extravagance and waste are minimized and that sound financial transactions are encouraged in estimating and contracting and in administration generally."

Prof. Warnapala adds that the basic functions of the P.A.C. are to see that money is spent as Parliament intended; to ensure the due exercise of economy and to maintain high standards of public morality in financial matters. As to modalities of functioning and the general environment, he states that the approach of the Committee is "more judicial than political."

Whilst commenting on the functioning of the Committee, Prof. Warnapala refers to the problems of obtaining and maintaining a quorum and bemoans the limited interest of members of Parliament in the proceedings of this important Committee.

This, he attributes partly to the busy nature of a parliamentarian's life, but at the same time he does not shun certain hard truths, when he states that "In Sri Lanka, the quality of the M.P. especially in relation to educational background and proficiency in English, has declined in the past three decades and this has had an effect on the use and functioning of certain vital Parliamentary instruments of control."

Both in the work of the P.A.C. as well as the Committee on Public Enterprise, Prof. Warnapala refers to the lack of adequate financial and human resources to service these committees as well as the disinclination of many members of Parliament to study the material that would be discussed at a particular sitting.

While these are serious drawbacks, another serious flaw that he has identified is the non-allocation of Parliamentary time to discuss the reports of these committees, due to a variety of reasons. In his view, these issues must be addressed in the cause of greater efficiency and accountability in the deployment of public funds.

Useful areas
There are many other useful areas addressed in the book such as Advance Accounts; the importance of Treasury minutes on P.A.C. observations; decentralized budgets; the recent Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act of 2003 etc., Prof. Warnapala also comments critically on the way the Consultative Committees are functioning and states that "In other words, very little interest or initiative was shown on matters of public policy formulation. Constituency oriented issues such as appointments, promotions, vacancies and transfers and basic constituency needs ..... began to dominate the monthly meetings of the Committees which spent quite a lot of time in discussing the minutes of the previous meeting."

Some of the views expressed by Prof. Warnapala are debatable, such as his concern about the outsourcing of portions of government audit to private auditors, and the view that the obstacle created by the Fiscal (management) Responsibility Act to the channelling of various benefits to the electorate during a determined period before a general election being a barrier to the independence of governmental action.

Different and logically argued views do exist on issues such as these. They do not however, detract from the usefulness of the book. These are areas that rightly stimulate thought.

In summing up his book, therefore, Prof. Wiswa Warnapala is seen to have combined historical, constitutional, scholarly and critical insights and commented on structures and processes covering the whole vast area of public finance and the Parliamentary control of public finance.

This is a valuable work of reference into which a great deal of reading, research and experience have gone. It constitutes an almost indispensable handbook for the legislator, administrator, scholar and student and all those who are interested in the subject of governance as it relates to the public sector.

The cover and the layout of the book is appealing and pleasing to the eye. The book, however, in my view, deserved a greater attention to proof reading in its final stages.

It is a pity that a number of printing errors have crept in which distracts the reader and detracts somewhat from its overall impact. I do hope that this matter would be attended to in a second edition. The overall value of the book do deserve an early second edition.

- M.D.D. Pieris

Secretary to the Prime Minister, Secretary to the Ministries of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, Public Administration; Provincial Council and Home Affairs' and Education and Higher Education. "

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Professionals and the service

Online edition of Daily News - 18/03/2005: by R. Perera
"You can take the boy out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the boy"

LIVING in a country where lawyers disrupt proceedings in a court of law with boos and catcalls, unionized medical practitioners resort to strike action to the peril of the patients, service providers as a rule give no satisfaction and the businessmen are mostly flashily dressed conmen we often forget that a few hours of flying can take us to lands where they do things quite differently.

It is obvious that in the countries where most of our professions took their present form and substance there are values and standards, which are very different to what exists here.

It is sometimes said that the Third World is a state of mind. Having grown up in somewhat straitened circumstances and learning to accommodate the various deprivations and degradations of their existence, absorbing ethical standards, which are both obscure and mutable, most in these countries have a pact with life, which is bare and brutish.

You make an appointment to consult a doctor at 2 p.m. but get to see him only at 5 p.m. and that too only for a few minutes. But you must be grateful that he attended you at all.

A merchant sells his wares not because of the superior quality of his goods or its price competitiveness but by giving a commission to the purchasing officer. But be thankful that he at least supplied some goods.

A businessman goes to an accountant not to audit his accounts but to find ways of defrauding the taxman. Drivers on our roads are as a rule selfish and rude but have convinced themselves that it is the only way to drive in such a road culture.

Nobody wants to follow a line because it will achieve no result or think it is infra-dig to do it. At most places you drop by there is a need to establish your legitimacy by a show of identity cards or personal contact.

There is filth and chaos everywhere. Almost every endeavor has incompetence and amateurism written conspicuously on it. But to the Third World state of mind this is all perfectly acceptable or maybe even the way the world should be.

The professions that we encounter in our daily life of course developed and took their present form and impetus in very different circumstances.

Maturing mainly in European cultures, inspired by the spirit of free inquiry and empirical investigation these professions were built on certain ideals and rationality, which are evidently quite removed from our collective consciousness. The colonial experience brought them here.

The colonialist took promising young coloured men, put a tie around their necks, a stethoscope in their hand, a file in front of them or a cheque book in their pocket and expected a replication of Europe. The failure of this colonial dream is now apparent to us every day of our lives.

The law is said to be in essence distilled common sense. Since only one person can speak at any given time in a courthouse all we need to represent a cause is one lawyer. But here when a local worthy has a matter before court it is common for a large number of lawyers to mark their appearance as a sign of solidarity.

It goes without saying that such a matter ought to be determined according to the law and the evidence. The number of lawyers on one side should not have any bearing on the outcome of a hearing.

The kind of herd instinct that the local habit represents seems to be at variance with the fundamental principle of the law that it turns a blind eye to all extraneous issues and will only judge on the evidence. But somehow, the impression that the multitude is behind a cause seems to sanctify it here.

In the cultures where our present professional systems originated, personal autonomy and individual responsibility are fundamental to an individual's sense of freedom. Numbers do not matter. Nor do the clan or the family affiliations.

The unthinking group instinct of some of our professionals stand in stark contrast to the self confident individuality of the cultures that nursed our professions.

There, a person stands against the rest and by that act defines himself. Like it or not, their methods have delivered. They have prospered and advanced. And, freedom has real meaning.

The professions that serve us are living things constantly adapting to the changing times to improve its usefulness. When you examine their evolution it becomes apparent that all developments and changes that have taken place in the professions have originated in other places.

The idea of painless surgery, rights of minorities/minors to more functional uniforms have occurred mainly in cultures, which developed the profession in the first place.

We have become mere imitators and mostly incompetent ones at that. When we want painless surgery our thoughts naturally turn to prayer. If it is human rights we are talking about we seem to think that they are all in old forgotten parchments. As for uniforms, the less functional but more pompous would do.

It goes without saying that the businessman, the doctor, the lawyer, customs officer, policeman, etc., play an essential role in a modern society. But to be really an asset they have to play their role according to an acceptable code of ethics.

Take away ethical standards and these professions become a farce, feeding on the innocent and the helpless. Any profession needs rules and discipline. But if these are considered things to be subverted or casually ignored that profession will soon loose its pith and substance.

There is no easy explanation as to why the same profession operates under such varying ethical standards in different countries. It is a question as intriguing as the reasons why some countries prosper while others perform poorly or stagnate.

There could be cultural blind spots, which blind us to aspects, which are childishly obvious to others. Or it maybe due to our ignorance of the philosophy behind the professions or even simple pigheadedness of an island nation determined to remain where they are.

But whatever the reason, we cannot pretend that we are receiving a good service from our professionals. At best it is only barely passable.

Most times it is disappointing and at times even degrading. Everybody knows that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark, and that we must change the situation. For this we may need a fundamental reorientation of ourselves.

It is easy to change inanimate reality. But as many spiritual teachers have pointed out it is very difficult to change human habit and thought. Can we take the country out of the boy?

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Sri Lanka clamps restrictions on post-Tsunami coverage

TamilNet: 17.03.05 : "Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka’s media watchdog, Thursday slammed the Government of Sri Lanka for imposing unacceptable restrictions on foreign journalists covering post-tsunami rebuilding and recovery efforts in the island. In a statement issued Thursday FMM said a Canadian TV journalist has been asked by the Sri Lankan embassy in Ottawa to sign a letter of agreement accepting the restrictions as a condition for issuing him a visa. FMM said that conditions such as these “did not exist even during most of the period of armed conflict in Sri Lanka”.

The following is the full text of the FMM media release Thursday:

“The Free Media Movement (FMM) has received a letter from Canadian journalist Steve Schmit of Global TV Canada regarding an unacceptable practice of the High Commission of the Republic of Sri Lanka in Ottawa, Canada.

“Mr. Steve Schmit is a producer of Global TV, Toronto, Canada.

“In his letter, Mr. Steve Schmit states that he planned to produce a documentary on post-tsunami rebuilding and recovery efforts in Sri Lanka. He was asked by the High Commission to provide a ‘letter of agreement’ as a Sri Lankan visa condition.

“He was asked to include the following stipulations in the letter of agreement: - All film footage/video footage recorded in Sri Lanka will be submitted for preview and clearance by the National Film Corporation/Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation respectively, prior to the crew leaving Sri Lanka

- The final edited version of the programme will be submitted to the Embassy/High Commission in Canada a week prior to broadcast and any objections raised by the Sri Lankan Embassy/High Commission will be suitably accommodated and/or a right of reply will be given to the Embassy/High Commission, in the same programme, in the event that they find any matter to be broadcast objectionable and affecting the national interest of Sri Lanka.

“The agreement also requires Global TV to name a company or agency that acts as our sponsor and who are liable if we breach the rules set forth in the agreement.

“These conditions are clearly against universally accepted norms and practices of democratic freedom, and violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to freely access public information.

“Moreover, these conditions adversely affect the transparency and accountability of post tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts by precluding scrutiny by the media.

“FMM considers it extraordinary and unacceptable that conditions such as these that did not exist even during most of the period of armed conflict in Sri Lanka, are now being applied to coverage of post tsunami recovery.

“FMM is appalled by this development and urges the government and the Foreign Ministry in particular, to enquire into this matter with a view to taking remedial steps as soon as possible. "

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ReliefWeb/OCHA Situation Report

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
11-17 March 2005

Overall situation

The Mid-term Review of the Flash Appeal was approved by the Country Teamand the final draft was submitted to Geneva on 16 March. Several further killings have recently occurred among the LTTE and rivalTamil factions, as well as attacks on Muslims in the east. The LTTEpolitical office in Batticaloa was attacked with a hand grenade on 14March. Disturbances have occurred in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloaamidst various protests and strikes.

Coordination and common services

The UN Interagency Working Group on Communications is currently undertakinga survey of a sample population of 2,500 people in nine Sri Lankanprovinces to determine their sources of news and information. The missionof the Interagency Working Group on Communications is to coordinate andshare information, to strengthen inter agency collaboration and tofacilitate the promotion of the UN system, its aims and objectives in SriLanka.

Food security

In the light of an expected bumper rice harvest in Sri Lanka, the Ministryof Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, with WFP, has endorsed apilot project for food aid beneficiaries to receive cash-in-lieu-of-rice.The project will commence in mid April. The cash-in-lieu of rice projectwill initially target general food aid recipients and later includevulnerable group feeding (VGF). The project is expected to last throughmid-August. FAO has started a joint-working group with the relevant ministries ofgovernment that will concentrate on the rehabilitation of forestry and ofthe coastal environment damaged by the tsunami. Two other joint-workinggroups with the government are already operational, one on agriculture and livestock and the other on fisheries.


UNICEF has recently assisted in the renovation of the children's ward ofthe Mutthur District Hospital in Trincomalee and in repairs to the primary health care centre in Vadamarachchi East.
The UN agence has also provided funding for the renovation of the antenatal care and well baby clinics at Peripheral Unit Pallai -- a health facility that provides critical care for people housed in the transit camps of the area - and funding to increase staff capacity for accommodating an increased caseload at the female wardat the District Hospital in Killinochchi.

Water and Sanitation

The Divisional Secretariat in Point Pedro is serving as implementing partner with the support of UNICEF in the construction of water and sanitation facilities in four of the 18 transit camps. The actual construction is being undertaken by the local cooperative societies of fishermen.

Non-food items and shelter

Tens of thousands of t-shirts, dresses and underwear provided by UNICEF arebeing dispatched to districts this week for distribution to children aged 1to 16. In addition to the clothing, cooking sets, lanterns, mosquito netsand household water purification tablets are being supplied. Additional relief supplies are gradually clearing customs. UNICEF reported that four gully bowsers, 500 tents and 10 Landcruisers were among items it had released from customs at the end of last week. A quantity of other goods, including adult hygiene kits, clothing, and household items have also been cleared. Among UNICEF items still in the seaport are 124 motorbikes, five vans, an ambulance ,11 other vehicles and 1,500 tents.

IOM's Colombo procurement unit is in the process of procuring and delivering a range of materials needed to construct transitional accommodation units, including timber, roofing, cement, welded mesh, hardboard for partitioning and door and window hard wares. The first shipments of cement and timber was just received by IOMs Trincomalee and Batticaloa field offices. Fourteen locally designed transitional accommodations, a community centre and a recreational area have been completed by IOM on a site in Vatavan, Batticaloa district. Construction on an additional 116 such transitiona laccommodations has just begun. IOM has also constructed another 80 locallydesigned transitional accommodations in Ullae, Ampara district with 19 more currently under construction. Four locations in Galle District -- Walauwatta, Sibalagahawatta, Katugodaand Magalle -which were heavily damaged by the tsunami have been selected for repair and reconstruction activities supported by UNHABITAT and UNDP. Some 250 tsunami-affected houses are being reconstructed and livelihood schemes developed with financial support from the Japanese Government. Alocal NGO, the Arthachrya Foundation, is ensuring the participation of the local community and facilitating communication between them and local authorities. UNDP's "Urban Governance Support Project" is assisting in the community empowerment aspects, information gathering and processing and capacity building.
UNICEF reports from Thirukkovil IDP camp in Ampara show classroom attendance is hindered by lack of transport for children to their school which is more than 5 kilometers away from the camp. The District Secretariat and the Government Agent is working with UNICEF to make available a bus service for the students. At a "Tsunami-Affected Children's Get Together" event in Colombo on 11March, the Sri Lankan NGO Samata Sarana presented 1,800 children UNICEF school kits. The children were from 34 schools in the Colombo North Education Zone. IOM has recently constructed 15 temporary buildings to be used as schools-- 13 of them in Ampara and two in Batticaloa districts.
Most masons, carpenters, laborers and small businesses have returned to their jobs in the division of Town and Gravets. It was discovered through a WFP household questionnaire on food utilization undertaken in Trincomalee. The local authorities have requested that WFP discontinue food assistance to this division; WFP had been providing food to 34,000 people.
In Matara district, IOM is assisting 100 families, including single headedhouseholds, develop their sewing industry. The families are being provided sewing machines and raw materials for initial production and advanced training in sewing techniques.
In the past four weeks IOM has provided 258 lorries to transport reliefitems for the Government of Sri Lanka, international organizations, NGOs and donors. Just in the previous week, IOM transports through out the country included: 32 lorries of medical equipment and other relief items for the Ministry of Health; 11 lorries of food, clothes and other relief items for the Department for Social Services; and eight lorries of food, clothes and hygienic relief items for the Prime Minister's Office.

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Dr Ariyaratne’s Open Letter to the World

An Open Appeal to H.E. the President, The Leader of the Opposition, The Leader of the LTTE, Leaders of All Political Parties, The International Community, Public Officials, The Business Leaders, The Clergy, The Professionals, The Media, Civil Society Leaders and all Citizens of Sri Lanka

A Single Minded National Vision and United Action by All the Only Way Forward For Sri Lanka
I have dedicated 50 years of my life to see Sri Lanka and its most precious resource – its people – attain economic, social, political and spiritual empowerment. The Sarvodaya Movement, to which many colleages and I dedicated a majority of our lives, was established with the intent of creating an equitable society based upon the Gandhian values of truth, non-violence, and self-sacrifice rooted in indigenous cultural and religious traditions and governed by the ideals of participatory democracy.

It is over 50 years since Sri Lanka gained independence. Unfortunately, the lack of statesmanship and a binding single-minded vision and commitment to a united and effective action programme by all, sans race, religious, language, caste, and other differences have resulted in Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the true potential of its people and resources. Over this period, the nation and its people appear to have regressed economically, socially, and spiritually relative to its neighbors and its endowed capability. All leaders of Sri Lankan society must bear responsibility for this self-inflicted slow process of degeneration. The recent catastrophe appears to have dealt a fatal blow to the dreams of steady growth. The unexpected earthquake, more powerful than many atomic bombs bursting at the same time, and the economic and social consequences of the unexpected tsunami could even push the nation and its people to a level of bare survival in the future.

Last week, using the basic resources available to me, my two feet and the four wheels of a vehicle, I traveled deep into the south of the island. Similarly I have had (on 31st and 1st Jan. 2005) the opportunity to travel to all parts of the affected North and East. What I have witnessed has saddened me beyond my worst fears. I am left wondering whether this calamity is not only the scientifically established consequence of an earthquake, but also carries some retribution for leadership and civil action of all Sri Lankans over the past 50 years, devoid of an united nationalistic binding value system that is aligned to the teachings of our venerated religious teachers.

The road sides were yet littered with rotting bodies along with many more in hospitals and centers. What I witnessed was that officials, common people, and resources were ineffectively deployed with no organized leadership action outside a few stretched officials and NGOs doing their best. The food distribution was ineffective (in many places donated food, clothing, and other items remaining in piles). Most importantly, the traumatized victims remined ignored and uncared for. There were signs of lawlessness with criminal and unruly elements wielding power in the absence of proper law enforcement. Above all, there appeared to be many curious and uncaring bystanders permitted to be engaged in sightseeing in the midst of death and misery. Priority and effectiveness in dealing with humane issues, alleviating the impact on victims, and disaster management in general were far below acceptable levels.

Sarvodaya’s own assessment of the total number of dead and missing taken across the island may even come closer to 50,000 and homeless persons well in excess of one million. This is a disaster of a magnitude never experienced before in Sri Lanka and easily exceeds the commonly quoted disasters of Kobe and California when taken in the context of comparative resource/population ratios. The next wave of likely disaster consequences on the health of the people, shortage of drinking water, effects of improper sanitation conditions and the adverse environmental issues can be explosive and of unmanageable proportions. The likely economic consequences in the next few months directly on the victims as well as indirectly on the people in general will require not only resources beyond the presently stretched budgetary provisions, but equally importantly a planned national disaster management and rehibilitation capability as well.

Have we even come to terms with enormity of the present relief management challenge, the trauma management capability requirements, the challenge of managing the emerging health and sanitation issues, economic and social needs in the next three months of the direct and indirect disaster victims, and above all the huge rehabilitation initiative that needs to follow?

Do we as Sri Lankans just wait and watch while continuing to play divisive politics in the same vein as done before, looking for quick profit opportunities, seeking personal and political power gains, preaching but not practicing and allowing our ego and past events to colour our judgment and govern future action? In the alternative, should not the whole of civil society single-mindedly resolve that we as resilient and courageous people become determined to rise from the ashes by taking lessons frm history and rebuild our nation and its people engaging all Sri Lankans and our friends across the globe in the process? Should we not approach this challenge as people of one nation bound together only by a single-minded vision and leadership action forgetting all differences, petty past issues and personal interests and place the interest of the nation and its people in the forefront of all common action?

Dear leaders, we need to mobilize all segments of Sri Lankan society, our international friends and the Diaspora. Whilst handling the immediate and short-term tasks we need to prepare a master plan under a national vision and support it with an agreed united action plan that will surely realize the dream and bring economic, social, and spiritual empowerment for all Sri Lankans. There is no time for rhetoric or vacillation as the time for action is now. We need united action by children, teenagers, adults, the disabled, and the aged, all engaged with commitment, collectively as one people single-mindedly supporting the tasks ahead.

The Only Way Forward for Sri Lanka is a Single-Minded National Vision and United Action by All Segments of Society Under Statesmanship-Oriented Leadership Action by All Leaders. Signaling the beginning of this way forward, could the leaders agree to work together for a specified period, harnessing expertise and networks of each other, and having the national interest in focus?

Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne
Founder – President
Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

A world 'built on bribes'?

Transparency International (TI)’s Global Corruption Report 2005 has been released. It shows how corruption in the construction sector undermines economic development, and threatens to hamstring post-conflict reconstruction. The press release issued on the 16th of March 2005 in London states that the report finds a lack of transparency in large-scale projects to have a devastating impact on economic development. The chairman of TI Peter Eigen is reported to have said that “Corrupt contracting processes leave developing countries saddled with sub-standard infrastructure and excessive debt.” The press release further states the following: ''Corruption raises the cost and lowers the quality of infrastructure. But that the cost of corruption is also felt in lost of lives. The damage caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes is magnified in places where inspectors have been bribed to ignore building and planning regulations. Corruption steers money away from health and education programmes towards large capital-intensive infrastructure projects. Corruption can also have disastrous environmental consequences.''
The Global Corruption Report 2005 also includes detailed assessments of the state of corruption in 40 countries. These country reports are written by Transparency International's national chapters and other experts. The book contains the findings of the latest research into corruption and ways to combat it, including studies on the links between corruption and issues such as pollution, gender and foreign investment. The document, `highlights of the report' briefly presents the nature and scale of the problem, the role of international finance, the costs of corruption, corruption and post-conflict reconstruction and corruption around the world.
In Sri Lanka, the report points out that, a multitude of irregularities at the April 2004 ballot, including the abuse of state resources – particularly state media – for campaign purposes were uncovered. Furthermore it is also highlighted that the judiciary had come under scrutiny in Sri Lanka, where a survey of acting and retired judges carried out by the Marga Institute gave substance to the public perception that corruption is widespread in the judiciary. Of 50 judges questioned, 41 reported 226 incidents of bribery within the judiciary. The detailed report on Sri Lanka can be found on pages 41 -- 43 of the country reports. Sri Lanka's corruption perception index score for 2004 is 3.5 (67th out of 146 countries).
Download the full report

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New York Academy of Science Tsunami Event

geolanka.net: News and fora: by Lareef Zubair

About 25 science writers and others turned up for the panel at the New York Academy of Sciences - this is an austere, old four storey building located on the West side of Central Park in its "Museum Row" - it was good to meet with Laura Newman who put together the panel. She let me know that she searched a lot to find people with first hand experience of the Tsunami - she had learned of me through Jeff Hecht of the New Scientist who had read my blog.
Dr. Siddharth Shah and Prof. Randall Marshall, both physicians were the rest of the panel. Siddharth was already in India at the presented some of his experiences with traumatized relief workers in Tamil Nadu. He is now offering counseling services to journalists in New York. Randall Marshall has been working with New York World Trade Center disaster victims and also others who were affected by it - he cited extensively from that literature and hopes to undertake a case study in a non-Western context in Sri Lanka. For the work in New York, their team was funded to $2 million by New York Times. For the present work, they are looking for funding for an initial visit from Foundations.
My presentation lasted for 45 minutes and I argued that the scale of the disaster was largely due to people's vulnerability and rather than due to the biophysical hazard it and that there was insufficient attention paid to vulnerability. This vulnerability could have been dramatically reduced if existing laws and policies had been followed and if the lessons learned from past disasters had been heeded. The marginalization of people, the stresses due to war and conflict and environmental degradation also contributed to severe death toll. Ultimately, it seems to be the case that the perverse lack of democratic accountability of rulers to its people so that it takes care of safeguards to reduce risk of such a basic need as freedom for disasters as the underlying cause for this disaster. I identified the neglect of local science, technology and services and the marginalization of local scientists and technologists as being a cause for the failure of disaster mitigation systems.
My plea to the writers was the need to cover scientific issues surrounding vulnerability, the need to pay attention to science and technology in poor countries and support of local capacity in Science and Technology.
The event was recorded for the New York Academy of Sciences and an account of it is due to appear in their magazine.

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On the road to recovery in Sri Lanka

Reuters AlertNet: "15 Mar 2005 15:36:00 GMT
Source: NGO latestby Alice Kociejowski in Galle

Its 8.00am and the International Federation relief team in Galle, southern Sri Lanka, has already been on the road for two hours. They are leading a convoy of trucks loaded with relief goods, heading for one of the many temporary camps that have sprung up around the coastline to accommodate the 500,000 people who lost their homes when the tsunami struck two months ago.

Meanwhile, Charles Blake, team leader of the Red Cross relief team that’s been providing emergency assistance since just days after the tsunami hit, is busy planning the week’s distributions in the “office” – a hot, dusty tent pitched in the Galle port authority warehouse

It’s here that all relief operations for this part of the country are managed. It’s here that members of the team contend with mosquitoes and regular power cuts to ensure that donations flooding in from across the world reach the people most in need.

“Its tough work, but its rewarding,” says Charles, who has been in the country since 6 January and has barely had a day’s rest since. “New visitors who come to this area are shocked by the devastation, but what I see on a day to day basis is a speedy recovery, and the fact that despite everything, the population is getting back on its feet”.

Livelihoods shattered

Charles’s team is made up of American Red Cross-trained emergency personnel and local staff, many of whom the tsunami affected directly.

His was one of seven Emergency Response Units (ERUs) deployed quickly to Sri Lanka after the tsunami. Each of these self-contained teams of specialist professionals and pre-packed equipment offer a life-saving service: providing clean water and sanitation or basic health care, for example. Charles’s ERU specialises in relief.

I speak with Mr Richard, 52, from Galle. He now works in the warehouse’s kitchen, which helps sustain the relief operation. But before the tsunami, he was a goldsmith, selling his handmade jewellery to tourists on a beach resort area just west of Galle.

The waves swept away everything he had, and the livelihood it had taken him 20 years to build up. Mr Richard greatly appreciates the opportunity to work with the Red Cross and feels proud to be part of the massive recovery efforts taking place.

But when I ask him about the future, he shrugs his shoulders. “I’ll have to find some other job. I don’t know how to restart my business with no money. You know, I’ve fallen down three rungs in life.”

There are thousands of people with similar stories to tell – and the Red Cross is putting in all its effort to make their road to recovery a bit easier.

Back on its feet

Back to the tent and the team is ready to set out and monitor the distributions the local branches of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) are handling today. Charles and the relief monitors leave the warehouse staff loading the trucks for tomorrow morning’s early delivery, and head east along the coast to Unawatuna, where a distribution will take place.

We drive past ruined houses and tent cities in lush green terrain. There are clear signs of reconstruction and recycling of all salvageable materials: piles of bricks and tiles are stacked up by the side of houses where only foundations remain.

We arrive at a temple 10 kilometres down the road and a stone’s throw from what has been voted among the world’s top ten most beautiful beaches. The beach itself is serene and splendid, in sharp contrast to the devastated shops and homes that line the shore.

At the temple, families are lined up in an orderly manner and a team of Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteers is busy registering everyone and stacking kerosene stoves, sleeping mats and mosquito nets in the shade.

The people here have been identified by local authorities as especially vulnerable. They have all lost their homes, and a large number of them have lost relatives and livelihoods.

Volunteers – the backbone of the Red Cross

Mr Lokku is a Red Cross volunteer who has been with the SLRCS since floods hit Sri Lanka in 2003. He was working in a hotel on the beach when the tsunami hit, and saved many lives by directing tourists upstairs to higher floors.

He quit his job to volunteer full time and is now responsible for keeping the rest of the volunteers inspired, enthusiastic and well rested.

Mr Lokku and Charles confer on the day’s distribution plan: how many people have turned up and whether any families are present but not on the distribution lists – and if they are, how have they been affected, who will assess their current situation and how will help be provided.

The other volunteers are directing the families from one collection point to another – once they have made their way to the end of the distribution line, these families have a good sized pile of everyday goods that will improve their living conditions and take some of the pressure off the family breadwinner.

It is hot in the sun and Charles dashes off to buy a big enough supply of ice cream to keep all the volunteers cool.

“They were working 24-hour shifts at first,” he says. “They’re an invaluable part of this operation. Without these hands we would never have assisted as many people as we have. I’m just glad to be able to show my appreciation personally.”

There are no problems to report at the distribution, and Charles jumps in the Red Cross jeep to head for the next distribution location 40 km away.

Another day over

By the end of the day, over 1,000 families from tsunami affected areas have received mosquito nets, cooking equipment and other essentials to help them back on their feet.

That figure will bring the total number of people assisted by Charles and his team to over 180,000, and that does not include the countless others supported by Red Cross water, health and relief and recovery programmes that stretch along 70 per cent of this country’s coastline.

Back in the tent, the warehouse team has packed up for the day and Charles takes a few moments to contact headquarters and confirm that today’s operations have passed without a hitch.

Then he and his team head back to the hotel for a quiet evening under the stars, content in the knowledge that at the close of another day, Sri Lanka moves further along the road to recovery.

[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters. ]"

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

All Sinhala relief team to assist TAFOR in East

TamilNet: 15.03.05: "None of the forty four relief co-ordinators hired by the Commissioner of General Essential Services and Chairman of the Task Force for Relief (TAFOR), Mr Tilak Ranaviraja, is Tamil speaking, attendees to a meeting called by the Commissioner held at the Ministry of Defense 14 March, said. Relief co-ordinators are recent graduates selected to assist TAFOR in finding land for transitional housing for the tsunami displaced, sources said.
The meeting was called to discuss Sri Lanka Government initiated Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) for the Tsunami affected districts. Several representatives from local and international Non-Governmental Organizations attended the meeting, sources said.

Acknowledging that none of the new hires could speak Tamil, an aide to the Commissioner said that there were no Tamil speakers in the “batch” and that they were trying to find some to fill the need.

“The Government officials did not even have the required statistics available on the number of people who will require transitional housing. Many of the attendees also complained that TAP has made little progress after the last meeting held two weeks earlier,” an NGO representive who attended the meetng told TamilNet.

Sri Lanka’s President disbanded the Center for National Operations (CNO), established on the 29th of December 2004, to coordinate the rescue and relief operations and transferred its functions to TAFOR."

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Alternative Construction Technologies and Materials

The following notice was sent in to us by Dakshitha Thalgodapitiya, CEO/Secretary General, Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka, 65, Walukarama Rod, Colombo 3.
dakshi@sri.lanka.net , cci@sri.lanka.net.


VENUE - Hotel Galadari

DATE - 18 th March, 2005

TIME - 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.


The stated policy for reconstruction and rehabilitation programme is for the Government to play the role of a facilitator with donor agencies undertaking construction activities on their own. Government is expected to ensure availability of construction material and manpower in the country. A large number of the Chamber’s Corporate Membership is engaged in supply and manufacture of construction inputs. Some of them are also engaged in promoting cost effective new construction technology and new products as alternatives to timber based items. A large number of vendors of Construction Technology and products are busy marketing their products and services.



  1. Appropriate low cost technologies for construction of housing units within budgetary constraints.
  2. Fast Tracking Construction Systems to expedite Rehabilitation processes.
  3. Alternative material for components of timber and timber based products, and Asbestos Roofing Systems etc.

Download the programme

For additional details please contact dakshi@sri.lanka.net or cci@sri.lanka.net

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Sri Lanka: Letter of Intent

LankaWeb - Latest Sri Lanka news: "The following item is a Letter of Intent of the government of Sri Lanka, which describes the policies that Sri Lanka intends to implement in the context of its request for financial support from the IMF. -Full Story- (IMF - 16/03/05) "

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ReliefWeb/OCHA Situation Report

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

The LTTE has accepted the joint mechanism, negotiated by Norway, for the distribution of aid in LTTE-controlled areas. A final decision by the Sri Lankan Government regarding its willingness to participate in the "joint mechanism" is pending while it studies the fine print.

The Paris Club, a group of 19 of the world's richest creditor nations, on 10 March offered to freeze Sri Lanka's debt payments until the end of 2005, an offer which was accepted. The Sri Lankan government has indicated that it will lobby the G8 group of nations to freeze its debt repayments until 2006 or 2007.

Overview of activities

The UN Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) has begun short-term deployments of its staff to the field in order to assist in information management at the district level. Liaison officers have already started working in Galle, while Ampara and Jaffna deployment will take place this

Main challenges and responses

FAO cautioned relief organizations assisting to restore the tsunami-affected fishing industry not to supply too many small canoes for fear it could lead to over fishing and depletion of near-shore fish stocks, while ultimately reducing the incomes of fishing communities.

FAO also cautioned that some of the canoes being provided to tsunami-affected fishermen do not meet international safety standards, and could endanger fishermen. For example, some boats are being produced without polystyrene-filled buoyancy compartments that keep a boat afloat even if it fills with water.

As of last week, relief agencies indicated they have already provided, or are planning to provide, tsunami-affected fishermen a total of 10,423 canoes. The government estimates that only 6,886 were destroyed on 26 December 2004.

In order to get relief agencies to consider reducing the level of canoe production, increase production of larger fishing craft for more distant deep sea fishing and consider other livelihood schemes for the fishing community, FAO urged that they coordinate their activities more closely with it and local governnt fishery departments.

A government needs assessment on suitable uses of tents is being conducted by the Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) with the participation of UN agencies and NGOs. A criteria has been established for suitable uses of such tents. The categories are: people still living under plastic sheeting; people living in substandard tents, such as igloo tents, who should have
them replaced; people who wish to leave temporary accommodation centres and return to their own land outside the buffer zone and people living with friends and relatives who need more living space on a site/at a house which already has watsan facilities; and administrative use, such as a temporary Government office where facilities were damaged or destroyed by the

Customs clearance is a continuing problem although some tents have recently been released. According to IOM 522 of its family tents were recently released from customs and 428 IOM family tents are presently held at Colombo Sea Port awaiting customs clearance. IOM reports that it had transported and distributed 618 family tents on behalf of the CNO when it was still in existence. To date, IOM has procured and distributed a total of 1,172 family tents.

UNHCR has to date delivered 1,993 tents to tsunami-affected areas. At present, UNHCR has 2,500 additional tents at the Port of Colombo which have been granted duty free clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are awaiting clearance for distribution. A further 5,527 tents (also located at the Port of Colombo) are pending both the duty exemption certificates and clearance..

An exact figure of the total number of tents distributed by international agencies and NGOs is unknown.

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Reconstruction and buffer zones

Online edition of the Daily News: Feature - ARCH Watch BY P. ELMO J de Silva
Chartered Architect/Chartered Town Planner

In the light of numerous articles and news items issued by the various ministries and authorities with regard to the reconstruction and relocation and the contemplated distances that should be kept as a buffer zone from the seashore, I would like to make professional overview of the situation.

Having viewed this unfortunate tragedy we should all use it as a silver lining to beautify our coastline and improve the basic infrastructure for the people who choose to live and work along the coast.

The Coast Conservation Department with the aid of foreign consultants have identified the distances from the coast to be kept to prevent sea errosion.

I think we should keep to these distances since these professionals have worked out these distances with empirical research over a long period of time. We should reconsider and give a lot of thought before any restrictions are contemplated with regard to new hotel development.

The reasons are as follows:

If the proposed distance of 100 metres from the seashore is made law, then from Bambalapitiya down to the coast no development will take place and the same would happen from Negambo upto Puttalam and along the East coast.

There have been tsunamis and tidal waves in other countries like Hawaii and Japan and no restriction were brought in with regard to future development in these countries.

During our monsoons some of our rivers overflow and breach the banks on either side. Do we in these instances evacuate or relocate the villages living on either side of these rivers?

The way to go about this is either as an individual country or jointly with other countries in the region contribute to a tsunami early warning system.

I would agree with the government's thinking that out of this tragedy we should take the opportunity to rectify our mistakes, in the field of town and country planning together with zoning of the houses in the affected areas, which have mushroomed over the years.

We should also provide decent housing and infrastructure for the fisherfolk who have live in substandard housing for decades.

We should relocate all the temporary structures, which have become permanent and unauthorised structures along the 100m zone, settle these behind the buffer zone with proper housing and infrastructure including social infrastructure such as schools, community centres, dispensaries, post offices and places of worship etc.

Let the coast be landscaped so that Sri Lankans and visitors could enjoy the beauty of our country and just as the President recently stated and I quote "Colombo should be turned into a garden city" while opening the Beira lake development, so could the coast be developed as a linear green belt.

I strongly feel that the existing and future hotels should be allowed to remain where they are adhering to the coast conservation limit so that we will not destroy our tourist industry which will now grow in sympathy to the destruction caused by the tsunami of 2004. May be there will not be another tsunami during our lifetime.

As time goes on the tourists who will come to Sri Lanka are not mindful of our tragedy. They require a good holiday ambience and they should have a feel of the seal and the seashore. This is a primary and principal requirement of a holiday resort.

There are a lot of people who depend on our tourist industry and we should make every endeavour to promote the industry rather than control the industry.

No developer would want to build any type of hotel beyond the required distance as stipulated by the Coast Conservation Department before this tragedy occurred leave alone a 100 metre buffer zone as being contemplated now. If this law is implemented it will be a total catastrophe to the future development of the hotel industry.

Bali is considered one of the most sought after tourist resorts in the world and the reason being that the hotels are in close proximity to the seashore.

The authorities there wisely restricted the height of the buildings to 10 metres, which is less than the height of the coconut palms. This scale of hotel development is in harmony with the coast.

I strongly recommend that the Urban Development Authority should monitor the future hotel projects along the coast and enforce a thirty foot height rule and a mandatory landscape concept plan and encourage developers to allocate 15% of the cost of the project for landscaping of the development to harmonise with the surroundings.

The maintenance of these greenbelts should be the responsibility of the local authority concerned and hotel owners could pay a monthly maintenance fee.

If the Coast Conservation Department feels that the hotels close to the sea shore in areas are liable to errosion then preventative measures should be designed and taken by the hotel developers in consultation with the Coast Conservation Department so that all Sri Lankan and visitors driving along or walking along the side of the coast should get views and glimpses of the sea including good Hotel Architecture and the landscaped areas.

The wellbeing of the fishermen is as important as the costal hotel development. While the families of the fishermen could be housed in new housing complexes, planners should provide footpaths to the beach in appropriate positions to access the beach.

The mooring of boats in clusters and locked for safety should be an important factor in the planning process. Sanitary and storage facilities near the beach together with vehicular access from the main road to the beach should be provided at regular intervals along the coastal belt.

The vehicular access will provide the means for the fishermen to sell their catch to the fish mudalalies who come in their lorries to buy this fish. A professional approach by Architects and Planners should combine a harmonious blend of the day to day living of the fishermen and the leisure activities of the hotels and their guests.

The relocation of houses and other buildings beyond the buffer zone should be approached professionally, taking into account the plot sizes, width of roads etc and the planning module or grid to lend itself to easy accessibility of infrastructure distribution from the main source to the housing units.

The housing mix can take different forms; generic type plans can be formulated depending on the topography and the locations on the coast. The sub-structure or the foundations could be done by one agency and the super-structure can be done by another agency so that we short-circuit the development and construction process.

When the implementing agency quantifies the material required for the housing units there should be one central body that distributes building materials this would help the accountability and transparency of these items and controls could be more efficient and streamlined.

The government should also consider land tenure like in other countries. It is advisable like in other countries when ownership is given the attitudes of the occupants are different and thereby a special interest is generated through the process of ownership of the property.

Finally we should all unite to approach this disaster in a pro-active manner so that in the future our coastal belt could be planned and redeveloped and would be a sought out holiday resort to the rest of the world.

The benefits of the hotel industry could filter to the general population and the fishermen could carry out their calling profitably with their families living in better conditions than before the disaster.

We should prevent ad hoc construction and subsequent regularisation by interested parties of these structures on the coastal belt.

It is a rare opportunity for the government and all of us citizens to give the people living and working in the affected areas a better standard of living in the way of good housing and good infrastructure together with the community needs and requirement so that their quality of life is far better than before the tsunami of 2004.

Finally we can tell the entire world that responded spontaneously, the monies that were donated by all were well spent.

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