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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, December 24, 2005

Sri Lanka draws less than a tenth of tsunami loans

APF: 16/12/2005"

Sri Lanka as of end-September had utilised less than a tenth of the loans and a quarter of the grants offered by foreign donors since last year's unprecedented tsunami disaster, a top official said.

The director general of state accounts, P. A. Pematilaka, Friday said the government drew only 393.7 million dollars, or 25 percent of the 1,562.9 million dollars pledged for tsunami reconstruction in the medium term.

Out of 700.3 million dollars made available to the country by way of concessionary loans, only 66.66 million dollars, or less than 10 percent of the available funds, had been drawn, he said.

"We are getting figures from all agencies that are involved in tsunami reconstruction and these are the figures we have come up with as at the end of September," Pematilaka said.

He said the tsunami aid utilisation compared with a 20 percent national average for absorbing overall foreign aid amounting to about a billion dollars annually.

An independent think tank earlier this month asked the government to rein in the plethora of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in tsunami reconstruction.

The December 26 tsunami killed over 31,000 people and displaced nearly a million in Sri Lanka. Some 250,000 people still live in cramped transitional homes, despite the international aid pledges topping 3.2 billion dollars over a period of three to four years.

Nearly 300 aid agencies capitalised on a huge international outpouring of sympathy for tsunami survivors and collected millions of dollars to rebuild and restore livelihoods in devastated coastlines of Sri Lanka.

The Institute of Policy Studies said the government needs to streamline the NGOs' spending spree as it involved waste.

Sri Lanka's tsunami reconstruction costs have also jumped by about 60 percent and the island is in danger of running short of funds even if the pledged aid is fully utilised, reconstruction officials warned earlier this month.

The tsunami damage to infrastructure was estimated at a billion dollars, but the replacement cost is estimated at between 1.5 to 1.6 billion dollars, according to a joint study by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, in January.

Sri Lanka is also battling corruption and inefficiencies in distributing the billions of dollars pledged, the country's auditor general said in a recent report.

President Mahinda Rajapakse who came to power after the November 17 election set up a new authority to co-ordinate all government tsunami-related relief operations.

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Tales from the tsunami coast

Daily Mirror: 17/12/2005" By Tom Whipple

The North

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) has produced a video. It shows water rushing through coastal houses, sweeping away livestock and possessions. Survivors are interviewed about their ordeal, whilst the director focuses on an old woman, crying in a doorway. This devastation is what the film’s director refers to as the “second tsunami”; flooding which, almost a year on, halted aid efforts but went unnoticed in the world outside.Weeks later, the water hasn’t completely subsided - the road from Kilinochchi to Mullaitivu is barely passable in places. Where the jungle clears, vast waterlogged meadows reflect the afternoon sunlight.

We begin our tour of the tsunami coast with Anton, a Tamil water and sanitation expert from Oxfam. After the tsunami, devastated communities were moved wholesale -- the camps named after the village they replaced. So the name ‘Karachchkubupu’ refers to both a temporary camp and a flattened coastal village a few kilometres away.

All that stands of this original Karachchkubupu is the church’s façade. The strongest building in the village, it casts its shadow over the remains of houses below, whilst its congregation work to rebuild the shattered rear.

Here the tsunami and flooding are not the only tragedies though. About half the destroyed houses we see were levelled by bombs. “The tsunami finished off the rest,” says Anton. And leaving the village we pass a demining unit; a reminder that more sinister things can hide amongst trees than the flotsam from a seismic wave.

The other, temporary, Karachchkubupu feels like a cross between a prehistoric village and the aftermath of a rock festival. Evenly-spaced shacks, with palm-leaf roofs, sit alongside water tanks and box-like toilets.

It is in camps like this where the aid agencies do battle. Marking their territory, they emblazon logos wherever they can. Toilets by Care, homes by Worldvision, water and sanitation by Oxfam. Although, Oxfam is annoyed because a UNICEF tarpaulin surrounds its washing area – making it appear like someone else’s work.

Tsunami victims don’t care that their showers double as advertisements for foreign NGOs. They care about progress and results. Wherever we visit, Anton is cornered by villagers. “…When are our toilets arriving?... Can we have another tank?…When will work be complete?…”

Later, he sighs “They always expect something from us.”

But many are grateful, especially those for whom the tsunami was yet another tragedy – differing only in that it merited aid. Mr Amirthalingam, a father of five, earns money fixing nets in his temporary home. How has his life changed? “Before the tsunami I was displaced by the war” he says “I was a refugee then and I am a refugee now, but we received no help in the wartime.”

There are vast amounts of aid in Sri Lanka. Privately, many agencies say there is too much. But it was given for the tsunami, not war nor flooding; even if those victims are equally needy. This is the paradox of relief in the North and East. Thankfully it is a paradox which -- through subtle rewording of aid agencies’ remits or through simple common-sense – is not as significant as it could be.

Martin Linders, the Kilinochchi director of Oxfam, explains, “Our donor has said that assistance can be given to tsunami-affected districts. So our programme can include tsunami-and war-affected areas.” The war or political situation is not as great impedance as might be assumed “To some extent it’s easier to work here” says Linders “There is one group to coordinate things. It’s fairly well organised.”

As if to confirm this, Anton takes us to a permanent camp, Nayaaru. It is impressive. Built on tsunami-proof high ground, there is still access to the sea, as well as solar lighting and sturdy buildings. Then something happens to remind us that, however easy the aid work, this is not a normal part of the world.

Whilst photographing the camp, a jeep pulls up. Its occupants start taking photos of us. They tail us for three kilometres and stop us for questioning. Nayaaru, we learn, is a restricted area. Lucky to leave without arrest, we decide to end our time in the North.

But first I interview a TRO coordinator. Previously I had spoken to TAFFREN, the erstwhile national tsunami relief coordinators. They thought the whole country could be back to some kind of normality, with everyone in permanent housing, within six months.The coordinator chuckles “What is normal?” he laughs loudly “Before this we had 20 years of war” As we leave LTTE areas, another bombing in Jaffna indicates that things may indeed be returning to just that state of ‘normality’.

The East

Chris Bowley, the Batticaloa director of Save the Children, warns me about emotive questioning “It’s been a circus here” he says “People have been asked about the tsunami so many times. They may not be willing to talk; going over these events traumatises them.”

We have entered the section of coast where the physical tsunami was followed by an equally extensive media tsunami; aid workers are wary of exploitation. And with good cause. Later in our trip, we reach Galle. Close to Colombo and well-stocked with journalist-friendly hotels, this area proved popular amongst the international press. I speak there to the director of a local charity “A guy from the Irish Times visited” he says, “We had a grand opening of a project, involving 250 children. He asked me if any of the children had particularly harrowing stories he could question them about. I replied that I wasn’t even going to find out. The day had nothing to do with ‘Oh your parents died, tell me about it.’”

That a journalist could be callous in pursuit of a story is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that he felt the need to search for such tales. Here, in the East’s coastal strip, trauma and drama are still the inescapable background noise to everyday life. What happened a year ago is far from just a memory.

So it is that, sitting in a classroom in a tsunami-affected school near Batticaloa, we hear the story of the clock. Tick-tocking on the wall above our heads, it contains a picture of a smiling girl – the explanation, that it was donated by the girl’s father after she was killed in the tsunami, hardly seems necessary. However, in three different classrooms there are three different clocks, with three different pictures. Each from the same man, each commemorating the death of one of his children. On presenting them he had said, “I won’t be here long either”. Shortly afterwards, he committed suicide.

The school coped better with tragedy. Closed when the tsunami hit, the only casualties were books and computers. But pupils came from along the coast and when I ask Mrs Velaudapillai, the principal, about lost equipment she replies briskly, “I give priority to life. 54 of our children died, 38 lost parents.” It is true, looking around, that equipment is not the issue. In that respect the school is at least as well off as it ever was. The issue now is that, a year on, those sitting their O-levels have missed out on education.

Amidst the post-tsunami devastation, schooling was not a concern. In some cases, schools had become IDP camps or medical centres. And when they reopened, counselling seemed more important than curriculum. So the risk was that a generation who survived th tsunami would still suffer through failing their exams. It was a risk, which prompted Save the Children to fund extra lessons. The forthcoming results day will reveal if they worked.

We leave an LTTE-imposed hartal to follow the coast, taking the road from Batticaloa to Pottuvil. The detritus of the disaster is everywhere. Rectangles of broken bricks emerge from the beach; the footprints of villages that have moved, as one, to temporary camps. Some day all that will remain of these temporary camps will be similar squares of concreted floor - just another footprint in the villages’ journeys to permanent housing. But the unmade road, temporary bridges and loose rubble are reminders of how far away that objective is.

And then, just outside Pottuvil, an STF officer stops us. Seeing we are Press, he takes us aside. “Villagers here have received nothing. The Grama Sevaka is keeping aid to give to the LTTE. Do you want to see?” With half a dozen men in the back of a jeep, he sets off to the village – our van following.

Two families emerge from half-completed shelters. Already poor, the tsunami took what little they had. Doubtless in Colombo, where their village is a dot on a map in an NGO’s office, records will show they received payments, received rations and are benefiting from the unprecedented aid effort. But Colombo is a long way from Pottuvil and just because something is dispatched does not guarantee arrival.

Despite assurances of anonymity, the villagers will not attribute blame. The officer, who also wanted to remain anonymous, whispers, “I could show you 100 people like this. They are scared to say more, scared of the LTTE.”

How much the political situation hampered the aid effort – in the North, but especially in the East – becomes apparent when we reach the South coast.

The South

“If I was heard to say this by certain parties I would be very unpopular but the fact of the matter is, things are alright here.” Jake Zarins, the Group Coordinator of Project Galle, is talking about the relief effort, “There is enough aid promised that, if focussed right, the south coast will be fine.”

Project Galle is an oddity yet, amidst the relaxed tourist atmosphere of the South, its strange beginnings seem almost appropriate. When the waves hit Unawatuna, a group of tourists and ex-pats banded together. They used their contacts to coordinate the evacuation and aid until proper agencies arrived. By the time authorities did arrive, they were still well-placed to help. Gradually their ad-hoc efforts became an organisation, which has distributed $2 million in aid.

But now, believing that the pressing humanitarian work has come to an end, they are winding up “We wanted to end on a high,” says Jake adding“Things are becoming more complicated: jealousies are flaring up and there’s an issue of donor dependency. Yet you go a few kilometres inland and people are as poor as they were before. Resentment in those areas is becoming a real issue, particularly in the schools. All the schools here have computer labs, science labs and sports facilities. I tell people who want to help to donate inland, where the schools have nothing. But people are attached to the idea of the tsunami.”

That is not to say all is perfect. On the ground, people talk about temporary camps remaining for at least a year. And the Southwest has its own problems. Whilst the Northeast has terrorists, flooding and the aftermath of civil war, here the difficulty is more prosaic, but often as pressing: space.

There simply isn’t land for more housing. So agencies build wherever they can; often on swampy ground where dengue and malaria are rife, drainage a luxury. Whereas houses elsewhere are spaced – each with its own porch – here camps are of the kind that would not seem out of place if the word ‘camps’ was prefixed by ‘concentration’. Long wooden blocks of contiguous sheds face each other across narrow gaps, into which kitchen scraps and wastewater form fetid puddles.

In general though, the South coast has performed an impressive recovery. Nowhere is this clearer than in the resorts: Mirissa, Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa. Here, it is all too apparent that the mercenary hare of capitalism beats the well-meaning tortoise of charity every time. Elsewhere, bureaucratic obstacles combined with logistical bottlenecks to slow the construction process, but here - with the tourist dollar king – hotels rushed to fill holes left by the tsunami. The profit motive prevails. And aside from a few photographs on restaurants walls, a few broken buildings on the edge of town, little evidence remains of the greatest natural disaster in modern Sri Lankan history.

Maybe, by the time the next anniversary arrives, the same will be said for everywhere else.

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Tsunami: One year after

Sunday Times: 18/12/2005"

One year has almost passed since last December’s devastating Boxing Day tsunami which caused much death and destruction in the island and it is time to reflect on how the nation coped with the tragedy and the recovery effort.
At a time when much of the nation, and particularly its corporate sector, would be engaged in merry-making, there is a need to spare a thought for tsunami survivors. Overall, the results of our efforts to cope with the tragedy and help those who were affected appear to be rather disappointing.

The outpouring of aid that followed the tsunami has not been used with optimum effectiveness. Apart from sheer inefficiency there have even been reports, from time to time, of corruption in the disbursement and use of aid meant for tsunami survivors. Furthermore, the ham-handed manner in which some of the relief and reconstruction efforts were done appear to have resulted in serious social complications, apart from delaying relief to the most needy.

The gravity of the tragedy and its effects can be gauged from remarks made by President Mahinda Rajapakse in his budget speech where he said that about half-a-million people are still living in temporary shelters due to natural and manmade disasters. These include tsunami survivors as well as those displaced by the ethnic war.

The president announced the creation of a new entity to handle tsunami-related reconstruction work. This, no doubt, was in response to reports that the reconstruction work was not proceeding as effectively as it should be and that there were a multitude of organizations, government and private, competing with each other to help tsunami survivors.

In the aftermath of the tsunami a plethora of new government outfits as well as non-governmental organizations mushroomed almost overnight. While many of them have done much good work, there have also been reports of incredible inefficiency and over-lapping of work and aid that would be comic if their repercussions were not so tragic.

For example, competition among NGOs to help survivors have created social complications in coastal villages, created all kinds of distortions in the labour market as well as the market for construction materials, and led to soaring costs.

In the absence of overall guidelines on homes for tsunami survivors, various NGOs have stepped in with different types of housing, creating tensions in village communities owing to disparities in social status and wealth.
Some of these NGOs have become big employers.

This can be gauged from the fact that many of the jobs advertised in recent times came from NGOs. This has created a huge shortage of technical skills, led to poaching, distorted wage scales and disrupted the work of existing NGOs. Some reports say the number of NGOs operating in the country have tripled since the tsunami.

The corporate sector along with sympathetic individuals and organizations abroad gave lavish donations to NGOs doing tsunami work. Private donations were higher than funds that came from foreign governments. But much of it does not appear to have been well spent.

And some of these exercises in philanthropy and charity appear to be largely self-serving – a vehicle for companies and businessmen to show off their generosity and to gain publicity for themselves, either for personal or commercial reasons.

This is where the media is partly to blame. While the media focused with much gusto on highlighting the inefficiencies of government organizations handling tsunami recovery work and the misdeeds of bureaucrats, it did not pay enough attention to the manner in which NGOs were raising and spending money. What is required is more accountability from NGOs as much as the government.

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Tsunami after one year- economic and social impact

Sunday Times: 18/12/2005" By Sunil Karunanayake

Our regular columnist on corporate and macro-economic issues argues that the first anniversary of the tsunami is a good opportunity to reflect on the collective trauma the country has gone through and on ways to rebuild the country.

The impact assessments of the December 26, 2004, tsunami revealed vast damage to the coastal infrastructure affecting public and private properties. On the economic front fishing and tourism, which provided livelihood support to many in the coastline took a severe beating. Total damage was estimated around US$1 billion (accounting for 4.9 percent of the GDP) and the reconstruction was estimated around US$ 1.8 billion.

Economic growth for 2005 was revised downwards from 6 percent to 5.5 percent, but the recent statements by the Treasury Secretary indicates that we are very much likely to be closer to the original estimate. Impact of tourism and fisheries was relatively less significant on the growth. After the initial shocks the Sri Lankan economy did well to grow sufficiently and reduce the inflation. Most remarkable was the rapid inflow of foreign funds that strengthened the rupee while aid commitments from donors increased and debt relief was granted. These developments enabled a healthy balance of payment while the tsunami reconstruction was getting off the ground.

The rebuilding task was mammoth and even before the government machinery started moving Sri Lankans true to their time honoured traditions and cultures went out of the way to help those who were displaced, injured and subject to many other traumatic conditions. Suffering was somewhat mitigated with simple village folks accommodating friends and relations.

By end October the Central Bank Tsunami Development Relief (TDR) had received Rs 22 billion. The Suhasana loan scheme of the Central Bank has disbursed 7984 loans valued at Rs 3.6 billion to end September. Further US$ 1 million has been granted by the UNDP to the Central Bank to be disbursed to the micro entrepreneurs.

The World Bank who is playing an active role in rebuilding provides a grant of US$ 50 each to approximately 220,000 affected families to enable them to get them back on their feet. In total there were 90,000 houses destroyed resulting in 400,000 people to be rehoused. The World Bank also financed house construction as well as repairs. Though the planning, identification of land, communication with communities and matching beneficiary needs were difficult the World Bank is optimistic of the rebuilding effort and anticipates positive results in 2006.

Budgetary estimates for 2006 provides for Rs 50 billion for tsunami related expenditure of which around 60 percent is expected from foreign grants.
Sarvodaya in a research study, notes that reconstruction programmes must take into account the socio cultural aspects, which increases when communities move through different phases of resettlement. More seriously they state that lesser understanding of socio cultural aspects by the providers further resulted in changes in the value system of the community.

These have given rise to serious repercussions in these communities who were used to a dignified life. Today the question uppermost in the minds is have we done enough? Have we done our share of good to our fellow citizens who faced one of world’s deadliest natural disasters? Admittedly during the initial period sympathy and care was evident with tamashas in cities being scaled down. Though the debris is cleared and some new housing has come up a lot remains to be done. There are many devastated families; children without parents and parents without children and the list could be very long. Though physical needs are being met livelihood and social issues remain.

The year-end and Christmas no doubt brings a certain amount of festivity in to the air. At the same time thought should be spared for affected citizens who are still trying to get on to their own feet to restore their dignity.

While the good cheer must prevail, in this first anniversary of the tsunami we as Sri Lankans must resolve to share our fortunes with those who were unfortunately affected. A little saving from the year-end extravaganza will go a long way to brighten up many smiles along the coastline irrespective of ethnic, religious or any other labels. Whether it is unitary or united that is the Sri Lanka we must rebuild. (The writer could be reached at - suvink@eureka.lk)

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Sri Lanka: "We cannot afford to only help people affected by the tsunami"

ReliefWeb: 13/12/2005" By Callie Long, ACT International

The cemetery lies baking in the sun -- a sandy stretch of land set aside some twelve months ago as a final resting place for those who died on December 26 last year, when a tsunami roared in from the India Ocean, destroying everything in its path as it hit Sri Lanka's coastal areas.

The small cemetery near Kilinochchi, along with several other "tsunami cemeteries" that dot the landscape and bear silent witness to the horrific events of December 26, did not exist a year ago.

Only twelve months ago, everyone buried here today was alive: perhaps just getting up, rousing their children, working in their homes, walking along the road, or even staring out to the ocean with which their lives were so inextricably bound, only to see it rising up as high as the palm trees that line the beaches.

Wanni, which is made up of Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, is a region deeply traumatised -- not only by the tsunami which struck the coastline, but by two decades of war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and successive national governments of Sri Lanka that left the districts in ruins. The death and destruction that resulted from the tsunami came as yet another blow to people in the two districts, which is today controlled by the LTTE.

Nearly twelve months after the catastrophic events of December 26, it is still hard to discern between the ruins of war and that of the tsunami. Both left the shores of this region broken and crumbling.

But, it's the war that people keep coming back to. Reverend S.D.P. Selvanal, or Selvan as he prefers to be called, of St. Mattias Anglican Church in Thanneerootu, says that as terrible and destructive as the tsunami was -- an event that cost so many people their lives -- it was essentially over in three minutes. The war dragged on for decades, "and nothing compared with that. Every day we knew people would die, just not how or when. Every day we expected death. When a plane flew over, we knew someone would die."

He explains that a small percentage of people in this region have been affected by both the tsunami and the war -- otherwise, the majority of the people are all survivors of a brutal conflict. "We were starting to rebuild after so many years of war," he says. "Then the tsunami came and destroyed even more."

Reverend Selvan is one of several pastors whose churches are members of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL). NCCSL -- a member of the global alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT) International -- has been assisting people whose existence had over the years become increasingly precarious. For many, the natural disaster of December 26 felt like one blow too many.

For Reverend Selvan it is vital that anyone involved in humanitarian assistance not create divisions in a community already so deeply traumatised. "There are so many people affected by the war," he says. "Now we have people whose lives are affected by the tsunami," he says. "We cannot afford to only help people affected by the tsunami."

Reverend G. Manoruban of the Anglican Church, who had himself been wounded in Batticaloa during the war when he was only 13 years old, recounts with horror the day after Christmas when some 3,000 people died in this region, with at least 6,000 injured. "It was difficult." He too is quick to point out that the war had had a traumatic effect on people. "People were already affected by the war, had lost their loved ones, [although] not in a few minutes."

He snaps his fingers. "Then, the tsunami. It affected people mentally." He himself had rushed to the beach to help where he could, recovering bodies and scrambling to gather clothes and food from his small inland parish. Crashing his off-road motorbike in the rush to get back to the beach with his load strapped to the back of the vehicle, he carried on with the help of friends, in spite of his injuries sustained during the accident.

Nearly twelve months later he is happy to show visitors the work his small parish has done along with the local fishing communities through NCCSL and the support of ACT's members around the world. The assistance came in the form of bicycles, boats, catamarans and fishing nets, but it also includes the daily placement of four local newspapers in the community centres in the many temporary camps that have sprung up to house people displaced by the tsunami.

The idea, explains Reverend Manoruban, is that people have access to information, especially as it relates to their own economic and political circumstances. And four newspapers, so that they can compare the news of the day, and come to their own conclusions.

Nadarajah Jeyaganash is one of the young fishermen in the community who received a traditional wooden catamaran through NCCSL-ACT. From the small temporary shelter that now serves as his home, along with his parents and siblings, it is about one and a half kilometres to where they used to live, right on the beach. All that remains of his family's previous home now is a broken shell. But he is happy with the catamaran, except that he says that the five nets he received as part of the critical assistance package, is not quite enough. To fish properly, a fisherman needs five sets of five nets each, all sewn together. Extra floats and weights for the nets would also be welcome, he smiles.

"It has been a difficult year," he says, "but what can we do?"

Jeyaganash says that life is slowly improving since he received the catamaran.

"Now we have some hope. If we don't have hope, we don't have life. It's important to be alive," he says.

Having saved his own sister, Shanty, from drowning during the tsunami, which she described as "waves rolling, rolling, hitting people," life is indeed precious to Jeyaganash. When storms blow in off the Indian Ocean now, he stays at home, no longer willing to risk the waves.

In Mullaittivu, Dheiveram Thoivarankan, another fisherman whose boat was replaced by NCCSL-ACT, is mending his nets. Still living in a temporary shelter in a camp for the displaced, he explains how the ocean is his whole life -- he was born next to it and raised on it. The boat with its outboard motor stands right next to the small shelter, a lifeline for him and his family. A small contribution by NCCSL through ACT to rebuilding livelihoods perhaps, but significant nonetheless, as having a boat is one step in the direction of restoring his family's life -- although his daughter Thanushian's whole life has been here, in the makeshift shelter that serves as their home.

Born ten days after the tsunami, her birth gave Thoivarankan and his wife Thayana something to hold onto during the dark days following the loss of everything they had ever owned. Receiving the boat helped bolster his hopes: now he can fish, earn a small income and support his family and help feed them with his catches. Three teaspoons full of chilli powder, a pinch of salt, a chopped onion and a dash of coconut milk mixed in with a fresh fish caught that morning and cooked from 15 to 20 minutes with boiled rice make a good meal, explains Thayana.

By the end of September, NCCSL-ACT had replaced 55 boats and 25 traditional catamarans, 500 fishing nets, 30 out-board engines for the bigger boats and 250 bicycles in the districts. Far from being only a physical replacement of a lost item, they have helped restore people's dignity. For Jeyaganash and Thoivarankan and other fishermen such as Mr. Sathaiyamoorthy, Mr. Thlasitha and Mr. Parmeswaran, it has meant that they are once more self-employed, like in the past, and not forced to work as day labourers, sometime earning as little as 100 Rp ($ 1 US) a day. "It is our only job. We don't know anything else, and can't do anything else," says Mr. Sathaiyamoorthy.

The local NCCSL and ACT-related churches in the region have long worked closely with the Roman Catholic Church, which helped with the NCCSL-ACT distribution of boats, catamarans and bicycles. Assistant parish priest, Father Thirumaguan echoes Reverend Selvan's words. "This is a good time to help people affected by the war as well," he says, explaining that those affected by the tsunami and those affected by the war should "all be treated in the same way in order to avoid possible tension and economic imbalances."

Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu are places of immense sadness. But also small pockets of hope. The humanitarian assistance that came in the wake of the tsunami brought some relief, but the wounds in these communities are deep and long from healed. Reverend Selvan warns that in the end, decisions should be taken by those receiving the assistance, and not by those giving it. "[We cannot believe] that instead of giving people a voice, we are only giving them something. Just because people are at the end of the line does not mean that they don't have a voice."

Callie Long is the communications officer for ACT International

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Sri Lanka: Help Still Needed in Aftermath of Tsunami and War

Christian Today: 15/12/2005" by Jennifer Gold

Sri Lanka’s coastal communities continue to reel from the devastation of last year’s Boxing Day tsunami. Help is still needed, however, not just for the survivors of the tsunami but also for survivors of the country’s protracted war, reports Action by Churches Together.

Wanni, which is made up of Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts, is just one of so many communities along Sri Lanka’s coast torn by the tsunami but also two decades of war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and successive national governments of Sri Lanka.

Not only the tsunami but also the war has left this region in ruins but it is the scars of the war that remain most deeply in the people.

Rev. S.D.P. Selvanal of St. Mattias Anglican Church in Thanneerootu, says that as terrible and destructive as the tsunami was it was essentially over in three minutes. People in Sri Lanka have suffering under decades of war “and nothing compared with that”, he said.

“Every day we knew people would die, just not how or when,” said Rev. Selvanal. “Every day we expected death. When a plane flew over, we knew someone would die.”

According to Rev. Selvanal, while only a small percentage of the people in the Wanni region have been affected by both the tsunami and the war, the vast majority of the people are survivors of the brutal conflict.

We were starting to rebuild after so many years of war,” he said. “Then the tsunami came and destroyed even more.”

Rev. Selvanal ministers at one of several churches which are members of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), itself a member of ACT International. Together NCCSL and ACT International have been assisting people in the regions who are suffering from both the tsunami and war.

Rev. Selvanal stressed how vital it was that anyone involved in humanitarian assistance not create divisions in a community already so deeply traumatised and fragile.

“There are so many people affected by the war,” he said. “Now we have people whose lives are affected by the tsunami. We cannot afford to only help people affected by the tsunami.”

Assistant parish priest, Father Thirumaguan, said: “This is a good time to help people affected by the war as well,” adding that those affected by the tsunami and those affected by the war should “all be treated in the same way in order to avoid possible tension and economic imbalances”.

Rev. Selvanal also warned that the recipients of any assistance should also make many of the decisions regarding how it is to be used. He said he could not believe that “instead of giving people a voice, we are only giving them something. Just because people are at the end of the line does not mean that they don’t have a voice”.

Rev. G. Manoruban of the Anglican Church was wounded in Batticaloa during the war when he was only 13 years old and also experienced the horror of the day the tidal wave roared in from the Indian Ocean, killing some 3,000 people in the region and injuring a further 6,000.

“It was difficult,” he said. “People were already affected by the war, had lost their loved ones, [although] not in a few minutes.”

He added: “Then, the tsunami. It affected people mentally.”

Rev. Manoruban was one of many survivors rushing to the beach to help wherever he could, using his motorbike to transport clothes and food from his small island parish to the survivors on the beach. Despite crashing his bike in the rush to get back to the beach and suffering injuries he continued to help.

His small parish has been working alongside the local fishing communities through NCCSL and the support of ACT’s members around the world, which donated bicycles, boats, catamarans and fishing nets, and helped to set up four local newspapers in the community centres in the numerous temporary camps.

NCCSL and ACT in a joint effort replaced a total of 55 boats, 25 traditional catamarans, 500 fishing nets, 30 out-board engines for the bigger boats and 250 bicycles in the district, which have not simply restored people’s dignity but also allowed them to become self-employed once again.

The local NNCSL and ACT-related churches in the region have a long history of collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church, which helped the NCCSL-ACT distribution of boats, catamarans and bicycles.

jennifer@christiantoday.com

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Sri Lanka: Rebuilding in paradise – One year after the tsunami

ReliefWeb: 13/12/2005"

Just under one year ago, a giant tidal wave swept over the coasts of South-East Asia, claiming the lives of over 200,000 people. But the disastrous destruction caused by the tsunami set something else in motion: an unprecedented willingness across the globe to donate. According to UN figures, EUR 5.8 billion was donated within a matter of weeks, more than EUR 600 million of which came from Germany alone.

Today, attention is focused on the question of what has been achieved so far and what else can be done. How do things look on the ground? What are the prospects for tsunami victims? How are donated funds being used? And what form does sustainable reconstruction take? The television station ARTE is devoting a theme evening with three separate items and entitled 'Reconstruction in Paradise – One Year After the Tsunami' to answering these questions (to be broadcast on 13 December 2005). On 28 November, a preview of the evening in excerpt form was presented at the GTZ-Haus, Berlin. Following the presentation, the author and the editor joined representatives from politics and Development Cooperation in a panel discussion.

"We did not want to deliver quick-fire judgements on international tsunami relief," is how the television journalist Klaus Frings assesses his film about reconstruction in Sri Lanka, 'Competing to Provide Charity'. "Actually our aim is to make a contribution to a debate that is difficult, but exciting and necessary too." Reconstruction cannot be achieved overnight, especially if it is to be on a sustainable basis – this is the film's central tenet.

Against the background of a national annual budget of only USD 3 billion, the scale of international donations represents a massive intervention in Sri Lanka's social and economic structure. "The surge in the building industry in the devastated coastal areas means, for example, that rice farmers from the interior are moving to the coast as building workers. By next year at the latest, the fact that the rice fields have been neglected will make itself felt," reports Klaus Frings. "These are processes which nobody actively wants to encourage, but which arise when a large amount of money arrives all at once. Perhaps it is a good thing that substantial funds are still being held on bank accounts and can be spent on aid over a longer period of time."

In this respect, all the relief organisations which had been active in the affected countries for many years and were familiar with local circumstances were at a considerable advantage. One of these is GTZ, which is working on sustainable reconstruction in the region on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and other relief organisations. "Our longstanding presence in the area was the prerequisite for our ability to provide help," says Christoph Feyen. "Our development-oriented emergency aid was integrated into existing programmes for the promotion of economic reform and conflict prevention." Following this principle, GTZ ordered boats from local craftsmen and offered training courses in boat-mending skills, for example.

An essential part of this approach is consultation with local decision-makers and other organisations or companies involved in the reconstruction process. Marion Aberle of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action) confirms this: "At the start, the willingness of people in the region to help was overlooked. Yet it was their involvement which made it possible to coordinate relief swiftly."

Good communications and local knowledge are also the best defence against potential political instrumentalisation. "We took this risk into consideration right from the start, for example in conflict prevention," says Adolf Kloke-Lesch, Head of Directorate at the BMZ. In his view, aid must be directed to where it is most urgently needed, and that, he says, is in the worst hit regions where the Tamil minority lives. Anyone wishing to help there needs to confer not only with the government in Colombo but also with the militant Tamil Tiger rebels. "Our basic principles naturally form part of the negotiating process – and for us that means principles of sustainability."

Source: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tsunami donations idle in banks, says UK Lawyers’ Association

Sunday Times: 18/12/2005"

A Sri Lankan lawyers’ association assisting the rehabilitation of tsunami-affected children charged last week that a huge amount of funds donated by a generous British public was still lying unused in UK banks.

The allegation was made by barrister Lalith de Kauwe, chairman of the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers in the UK (ASLLUK) Tsunami Appeal during a fund raising ceremony at the Garden Court Chambers in the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn in London, to mark the first anniversary of the tragic event.

While thanking the British public for its generosity in donating over £400 million for the tsunami-affected countries, de Kauwe said it was not only surprising but also unacceptable that something like two-thirds was still lying in UK banks.

He said it is a scandal that this money is lying idle one year after the tsunami, while people who suffered from the devastation, especially children, were still in need of shelter, education and counselling after the trauma of an unprecedented tragedy.

Barrister de Kauwe was particularly harsh on bureaucrats of British charities who preferred to spend their time travelling around in high-powered vehicles and living in the comfort of star-class hotels in Sri Lanka wasting “enormous amounts of money raised by the British public while the victims of the tsunami were in great need one year after the horrifying experience”.

Speaking last week at a well-attended gathering that included many UK well-wishers and donors, Lalith de Kauwe said, “What an appalling state of affairs that the 13 big charities that were given 1/3 of that £400 million claimed to be unable to help anyone else as they had already allocated their funds for this year. What pathetic excuses.”

The ASLLUK has been particularly concerned about the children left parentless or homeless after the December tsunami and has donated funds to at least three charitable institutions in Sri Lanka.

The association has donated £3,600 for the upkeep of 10 children at St Mary’s Convent, Matara and is hoping to support 10 more kids for the next 10 years if funds are raised. This convent cares for children without considerations of race, religion or creed, de Kauwe said.

It has provided £1000 to the Prithipura Infant Home in Wattala and another £1000 to the Senthalir Project in Udayarkuddu in the North-East. The ASLLUK has thus disbursed its funds to affected areas and institutions irrespective of ethnic or religious differences because it believes that all those who were affected needed assistance and deserve to be helped.

In this respect the association welcomed President Mahinda Rajapakse’s recent speech in which he pledged to accelerate reconstruction in the north and east as well as the other coastal belt areas that were devastated.

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Sri Lankan tsunami survivors strive to make a living

Xinhua: 13/12/2005"

The 32-year-old A. D. Malani and her husband operate a small grocery beside their temporary house in Dadalla, a small village two km north of Galle (about 120 km south of the capital Colombo), one of the districts badly hit by last year's tsunami.

"We opened this shop about six months ago. We can earn about 1,000 rupees (about 10 US dollars) per month from this shop," said Malani in her shop, which sells vegetables, beverages, sugar and other everyday necessaries.

Although losing their house and all belongings, Malani said shewas happy because herself, her husband and all their three sons survived the tsunami, which killed more than 31,000 in Sri Lanka.

A foreign organization helped them build a temporary house. TheSri Lankan government provided cash, rice, flour, coconut powder and some other daily necessaries to the survivors after the tsunami.

"We have food and shelter. But it's not easy to find a job and we don't have cash," Malini said.

Near Malani's shop, a group of women and children were making ropes from coconut fiber using simple machine.

Malani said her neighbors can make hand crafts from the coconutrope and sell to the market.

In Akurala, a village about 80 km south of Colombo, the tsunamidamaged J. Baitn's house. Cracks could still be seen in the wall of the house.

"The government gave us 50,000 rupees (500 dollars) to repair the house," said the 62-year-old Baitn, who has retired from the country's railway department.

Batin and his wife live in the two-bedroom house with their twodaughters and seven grandchildren.

The government provides cash and food to Batin's family. Batin can also support the family by his pension from the government.

To make a better life, Batin's wife and daughter are making cushions by themselves to earn more money for the family.

However, some tsunami survivors have not found their way of living nearly one year after the disaster.

In the nearby Peraliya village (about 90 km from Colombo), where last year's massive tsunami swept a train off the tracks andkilled more than 1,000 people, a group of women and children were wandering in the tragic site to seek help from visitors.

The 48-year-old W. Udulani said the tsunami leveled her family's beach side house and a large shop worth at least 250,000 rupees (2,500 dollars). Her husband also lost his fishing boat in the disaster.

"My husband grasped my collar and led me run more than one km to escape the tsunami," said Udulani.

Udulani, her husband, and their daughter live together with Udulani' s mother in their temporary house, which is only about 10square meters.

"There is no kitchen and no toilet in the room. It's very hot and very uncomfortable inside," Udulani said.

Because their leveled house falls within the 100-meter buffer zone defined by the government, Udulani and her husband are not allowed to rebuild their house in the same location.

"The government promised to give us a new house. One year afterthe tsunami, we get nothing," said Udulani sadly.

The government said it had made every effort to help the tsunami survivors. The international community has pledged more than 2 billion dollars for the reconstruction of the Indian Ocean island country.

According to the government, 95 percent of transitional housinghas been completed.

Over 51,000 homeowners have received at least one installment of a grant to rebuild their damaged houses.

Meanwhile, funding has been pledged by donors for over 39,000 new homes, and 15,000 houses are to be handed over by year end.

To help restoring livelihoods of the 800,000 tsunami affected people, the government has provided temporary cash and food tickets.

Based on need, each of 250,000 affected households can get temporary cash between 5,000 rupees (50 dollars) and 20,000 rupees(200 dollars), said the government.

The government has also identified 96 cash-for-work programs toimprove employment in the tsunami hit areas.

In the fisheries sector, 70 percent of the 19,900 boats destroyed have been replaced, while 90 percent of damaged boats have been repaired and 50 percent of lost fishing nets replaced.

However, giving the extent of the disaster, more efforts are needed for the country to get back on its feet. Enditem

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Shocking robbery by tax dodgers

Daily Mirror: 14/12/2005"

A staggering loss of Rs. 95 billion — more than even the Defence Budget — has been suffered due to tax evasion last year, the Finance Ministry informed parliament yesterday.

According to a report tabled in parliament, the Department of Inland Revenue had been deprived of about Rs. 39 billion due to evasion of Value Added Tax, about Rs. 20 billion due to evasion of Goods and Services tax, Rs. 18 billion through evasion of Income Tax, Rs. 8 billion from Turnover Tax and Rs. 7 billion from the National Security Tax.

The report said that tax dodging of the surcharge on income tax amounted to Rs. 2 billion while those in the betting and gaming trade had dodged payment of about Rs. 25 million.

The total fiscal revenue for 2004 amounts to Rs. 164.8 billion and it represents a growth of 18.5 percent over the figure for 2003.

Over the past two decades, tax evasion is known to have deprived the country and the people of billions of rupees despite corrective action by various governments.

In recent years, the government proposed measures to restructure the Inland Revenue Department in a bid to streamline operations and curb tax dodging. But the proposals ran into severe opposition from trade unions and others who alleged the restructuring was a subtle process for privatisation of this key department.

According to investigations, big-time business operators and wheeler-dealers in areas like the arms trade are not the only tax dodgers. Other big-time tax dodgers are known to include some in the highly-respected medical and legal professions.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oxfam report shows providing shelter is the toughest challenge one year after the tsunami

Oxfam Press Release: 14 December 05: Providing shelter for those displaced by the tsunami is proving the toughest challenge one year on, says an Oxfam International report published today.

The Oxfam report, 'A Place to Stay, A Place to Live', shows that there has been major progress in providing shelter to the millions of people displaced by the tsunami - but that progress is uneven and faster reconstruction has been blocked by a range of factors.
The report shows how:
• The emergency response phase rapidly provided all those who needed it with emergency shelter.
• In Sri Lanka around 95% of people have now moved into transitional shelters.
• In the worst affected Indian state of Tamil Nadu plans have already been drawn up for more than 31,000 homes.
• Around a quarter of the permanent houses needed in Aceh are expected to have been built by the end of December.
"The progress already made has been impressive but there's much more to do. The emergency response was rightly commended for helping to save and improve thousands of lives but the rebuilding of communities will take much longer," said Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.
The size of the task, according to the report, is equivalent to rebuilding the city of Philadelphia, Brisbane or Glasgow and Birmingham combined.
The report sets out the key blocks to faster progress. Some of these were impossible to avoid, such as the fact that in Aceh land that housed at least 120,000 people has been permanently submerged. Other delays should have been avoided:
• Governments have been slow to allocate new and appropriate land for rebuilding.
• Lack of government clarity over coastal buffer zones delayed rebuilding. In Aceh a 2km exclusion zone was introduced and it was not until June that permanent shelter reconstruction could really get underway. In Sri Lanka the buffer zone was changed as recently as October. In India, the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) has made the search for land for new housing more difficult.
• For the first three months aid agencies in Aceh were uncertain about whether they would be allowed to stay in the region after March and therefore unable to effectively plan ahead.
Other delays identified by the report include a lack of experience of mass shelter construction within NGOs, the need to consult communities fully and real problems in sourcing building materials. In Aceh access to devastated areas has been severely hampered by lack of infrastructure, including roads and ports and the price of timber has tripled since the tsunami.
According to the report these obstacles have meant that progress, though substantial in many areas, has been uneven, with some people already in permanent houses while others remain in tents.
"The reality is that rebuilding at speed involves a difficult balancing act: people want houses quickly but they also want to be consulted and the houses to be of top quality. In some cases the rebuilding process may actually have been too fast.
"Trying to establish a compromise between the two requirements is a hard call. However, for once, the aid effort is fully funded so we can afford to be there for the long term and we'll make sure we get it right," said Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.
Oxfam has already built thousands of temporary shelters and is building thousands of permanent houses. We are also working with others to upgrade and repair temporary shelters and re-house those still in tents. Oxfam is pushing governments to do more to provide appropriate land to all those who need it and training local communities to claim the land and property that they are entitled to.
The report also gives examples of the timescale for other reconstruction projects:
• In America one year after Hurricane Ivan, thousands of families in Florida are still living in temporary shelters
• In Japan it took the city of Kobe 7 years to recover from the 1995 earthquake.

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Soar only exporter of power generators

Daily News: 13/12/2005" BY NIMAL Perera, Wattala group correspondent

ROSHAN Gunathilake Chairman, Managing Director of Soar Technology (Pvt) Ltd. Welisara the only company in Sri Lanka which manufactures power generators for the export market has become an award winning businessman today.

"During the past nine years I have won so many awards including the International Quality Crown award at the 17th International Quality Crown convention held in London last week. I am very proud on it. This is a dream award for not only for me but the whole country." Roshan said.

Roshan (38), a young and enthusiastic Sri Lankan electronics engineer has set himself the task of earning much foreign exchange to the country by manufacturing power generators and exporting them to foreign countries.

Roshan, an old boy of St. Benedict's College, Kotahena, improved his inborn skills by watching his father who served as an airconditioning engineer at Walker and Sons.

As a school boy he created an automatic tea making machine to brew tea in seven minutes which won him the award of Junior Inventor of the Year 1986. He was also acclaimed the most popular designer of the year at a science exhibition.

Soon after leaving school Roshan had the opportunity of joining the National Engineering Research and Development Centre (NERD) where he had the privilege of meeting people in the calibre of top engineers, doctors and best technical personnel.

His talents were spotted by then NERD Chairman Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe, the engineering genius and offered him a scholarship to study further in power generation, transmission and distribution. He also obtained a diploma in engineering science from the Technical Institute Katunayake specialising in electronics.

In 1993 he won the award for the most outstanding student from the City and Guilds institution in UK.

Roshan started his own business in 1992 under the name of Soar Technology which was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1996.

In the early stages he started manufacturing accessories for power generators such as control panels, synchronising panels and auto voltage regulators.

These accessories exported to several countries including Maldives and U.K. Roshan said these items are made by several other countries but have to be discarded when part turn faulty because no spare parts are available.

He has therefore met this shortcoming by manufacturing all the spares needed for the accessories to power generators and other items so that a part can be replaced instead of having to discard the whole unit.

"Assembling or manufacturing these items in countries like the UK is very costly. Vega Power Systems Ltd. UK one of the biggest manufacturers of power generators in the world entrusted this job to us as they have recognized the high quality of our technology and the skills. This is a big honour to our country," he said.

Today he has become one of the main suppliers of these items to the "Welland Engineering" in UK, a well-known name in power generator field in the world.

Roshan started to manufacture power generators in 2002 and exported them to Maldives and Nepal.

Today it has expanded to Indonesia, India and Japan. The latest order of 33 power generators worth US dollars 320,000 received from a Japanese company as a tsunami grant aid will be issued shortly.

All necessary machinery including an electronic workshop and a test laboratory have already been installed at the Welisara factory complex. Another modern factory is under construction at Nagoda, Kandana to expand the manufacturing of power generators.

Today his company employs a work force of 120 including officers and technicians. Another 40 employees are engaged on a casual basis. During the past nine years Roshan has won several awards and certificates for the generator field.

Among the host of awards he has won, the "TOYP" (Ten Outstanding Young Persons) award for the year 2000 was a key one.

Roshan is very keen on the "ISO 9001: 2000" certificate which he received very recently. Soar technology (Pvt) Ltd. was the first company to get ISO certificate for the generator field in Sri Lanka.

Roshan has won best locally developed electronic product award and best demonstration of the most recognised award given by the Institute of Engineers, Sri Lanka.

National level Bronze award under the theme of Achiever in Industrial Excellence conducted by Ceylon National Chamber of Industry, "FCCISL" award for western province, Silver award for national level and Bronze award for medium industry category were some awards which he has won.

Roshan Gunathilake a hard working young businessman who came forward by overcoming challenges has made Sri Lanka proud by manufacturing high quality power generators.

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Why our schools have failed us

Daily News: 13/12/2005"

SELECT extracts of speech delivered by Dr. Deepthi Attygalle at the prize giving of Ladies' College, Colombo. Dr. Attygalle retired as Senior Consutlant Anaesthesiologist at the National Hospital Colombo and was the Chairperson of the Board of Study in Anaesthesiology and later member of the Board of Management of the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, Sri Lanka. She was also the Vice President of the World Federation of the Societies of Anaesthesiologists.

Today, I would like to share a few thoughts with you, on what one learns in school which helps to make a success of one's life, and one's career.

DURING the last 35 years as a consultant Anaesthesiologist, and teacher of undergraduates and post graduates, I've noticed with much concern and distress, the increasing deterioration in the work ethic, among both students and professionals in Sri Lanka.

Manifested as a lack of discipline and a lack of objective thinking. Despite the fact that the medical faculties are supposed to get the cream of the A levels, I've found, that most of the students are unable to discuss a problem, or demonstrate a mind of their own.

The ability to take emergency decisions, and justify their actions, which, are so necessary in the practice of medicine, are difficult to develop at the late stage of undergraduate and post graduate studies.

This inability to take a considered objective decision, which is not influenced by emotion and personal loyalties, has become a problem not only for doctors, but a problem at all levels of society, for politicians, for professionals, down to the blue collar workers.

Why is it that our schools have failed us?

In the present system of education there is a central control of curriculum, objectives, targets and a stress on examinations with extensive syllabuses. The questions in our public examinations do not encourage independent critical thinking.

Memory is what counts. The regurgitation of knowledge, rather than discussion, is what is required to pass examinations. All of which leaves little time or inclination on the part of teachers to develop the child in any other way.

The public, judges schools essentially on how many 4As at A levels, how many 8 Ds at O levels. How many passes at Grade 6 scholarship examinations? How many entrants to the university especially to the medical and engineering faculties?

Are these the only criteria by which we should judge school performance? In the words of Albert Einstein "Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career."

The ideal school must focus on each and every child. On their strengths and on their weaknesses, so that every child may be given the opportunity of developing her potential to a maximum.

However, the focus of education in most schools is obtaining good results in examinations. This is done by concentrating on the brightest and best which accounts for only 10% of the class, How many schools actually worry about the other 90% who have to more or less, fend for themselves?

Passing examinations help us to be eligible for a job but to be successful in the job we need much more than that.

Self discipline, objective critical thinking, the ability to listen to others and respect their points of view, to communicate with people at all levels without appearing to be superior, to be critical of oneself before criticizing others, to be compassionate, honest and accountable for one's actions. Cultivating these qualities should begin at home and school.

We are all aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult to nurture discipline in the children of today, because they feel that discipline limits their independence.

Many of them do not appreciate the value of discipline. They do not realize that discipline is the bridge between setting goals and accomplishing them.

The cooperation of both the school and the parent are essential to establish a level of discipline. If the school does not insist on rules and regulations, parents often find it difficult to control their children because of peer pressure.

For example, if the school allows their students to go to night clubs, it is difficult for the parent to stop their child from joining the gang. If the teacher does not insist on letters of excuse when the child is absent, and follow it up. it leaves room for playing truant.

On the other hand parents must also play a large part in instilling self discipline and must not delegate their responsibility to others.

One parent I know was told by the school that the child had misbehaved, and her reply was, why do I pay you school fees, discipline is your responsibility! It is well to remember the old Danish proverb which says "Give to a pig when it grunts and a child when it cries, and you will have a fine pig and a bad child."

Excessive control which insists on order without freedom, and no choices, in other words "you do it because I say so because I know best" is the easy way out, but only leads to indiscipline when the child is free of school and home.

The important goal is to develop self discipline and a sense of responsibility in a child, which, she will exercise even when the parent and teacher are not looking over her shoulder.

To achieve this, both teachers and parents have to exert firmness, but, with dignity and respect for a child's intelligence, so that the child desires to cooperate.

This type of discipline allows freedom with order where behavior is always constrained by social responsibility and respect for others. Nurturing self discipline is not an easy task, and requires constant communication and understanding, between child and parent, and between child and teacher.

How can a school nurture self discipline?

Let us take the example of time management. This is one of the important constituents of self discipline as it is essential for career success and social responsibility.

This can be taught from a very young age. Punctuality is an important aspect of time management. I know that punctuality is an important rule in Ladies College. Even in our time children who came late lost house points.

The parent and teacher must ensure however, that the child will carry this training into later life, when there are no house points to be lost.

The child herself has to realize the importance of punctuality in all her activities, how punctuality ensures respect for others and how punctuality improves her own performance.

If your children get late for class, either the class cannot start, in which case all suffer, or if the class has started, you suffer.

When you are an adult and in a position of responsibility, if you keep people waiting for a meeting whether it be 10 minutes or 3 hours, you have shown no respect for your colleagues.

You have disrupted not only the meeting but their work schedule as well. Unpunctual people are disorganized. They are a nuisance in society and not tolerated in an efficient workplace.

Children think that self discipline is not cool as they say. This is not so. It is simply doing what you're supposed to do, as well as you can, when you're supposed to do it.

The school and parent have to ensure that the child understands that this axiom must pervade all day to day activities be it work, sport, drama, or organization of events and in the home.

The Sri Lankan work ethic consists of doing minimum work and getting the maximum salary. When things go wrong and the head of the institute does not want to take the blame. They shape things up rather than rectify the mistake.

You go to a government department. The workers are either eating breakfast, having tea or having a private chat over the telephone.

Even when they do deal with you, you find that you cannot complete your business with one visit and there is no assurance that the next visit will be more fruitful. In Sri Lanka the easy way out is to resort to influence or bribery to get things done.

What about professionals? A doctor may be brilliant but does he always think of satisfying the patient? A patient went to see a doctor friend of mine and at end of the consultation he said, "you know doctor I made an appointment to see you and I was taken in on time, you listened patiently to my complaint, you examined me thoroughly, you explained to me what was wrong with me in a language that I understood. You explained to me what drugs you have prescribed and their possible side effects.

You wrote a prescription which I could actually read. You are not like the other doctors I have been to. Are you quite sure you are a real doctor?".

Our aim should be to produce disciplined workers in varied walks of life, who are innovative and practical with a willingness to learn. Who are able to think independently and make objective decisions.

Such persons are hard to come by in Sri Lanka but are pearls of great price in whatever institution they work in.

Our students do not have the confidence to ask a question, or answer in front of an audience. When I asked my students why they don't question me after my lecture, I was told that they were never encouraged to ask questions in school, for most teachers consider it a lack of respect rather than recognize it as a desire to learn.

This is due to misconceptions on the part of both students and teachers. Many children do not like to get up in class and say they cannot understand, because they are afraid they will look foolish in front of the class and it may upset the teacher.

The child thinks that the teacher should know every thing and if she doesn't, she should not be teaching. The teacher feels it is a loss of face if she has to admit that she does not know and therefore discourages all questions.

All these ideas stem from our culture, where the guru is somebody up there being all knowing and always right. This is a belief we have to shed, if we are to inculcate a desire to want to know.

I always tell my students " Don't be embarrassed to ask for further explanations. If you did not understand, I am sure at least half the class is in the same boat, though they pretend to look knowledgeable. If you do not agree with me, don't be afraid to say so, but you must be able to justify your stand.

Nothing is more upsetting to me than an audience which looks blankly at me at the end of my lecture, for I do not know whether they have understood or misunderstood what I have said.

There should always be a question time at the end of a class so that pupils will develop self confidence and a desire to learn.

If a student asks me for further explanations, it helps her to understand better, and it helps me to realize, that my explanation has been inadequate. Learning will then be a two way process for both student and teacher.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Living With Fear

One year after the tsunami, with populations rapidly moving back to the coastline, Asian governments seem no better prepared for another disaster. By Joe Cochrane, Newsweek, Dec. 26, 2005 - Jan. 2, 2006 issue -

Ratte Kongwat Mai refuses to move away from her beachfront home. One year ago ocean waves measuring up to 21 meters obliterated her neighborhood in the tiny Thai fishing village of Ban Nam Khem, about 160 kilometers north of Phuket. The Asian tsunami killed nearly 1,000 people in the village, including Ratte's 8-year-old daughter. In the months that followed, the survivors could not simply grieve; they were forced to confront homelessness, joblessness, destitution and death threats from an ongoing legal dispute over the land, not to mention nightmares of a repeat of the massive disaster. Some of the villagers moved farther inland, but Ratte opted to rebuild her house and stay put. She believes the spirit of her lost daughter now roams the beaches, and she refuses to abandon the child. "I'm not afraid of tsunamis coming again—my daughter died here and now she lives here," she says. "Nothing could be worse than what happened last year."

Millions of people in coastal areas from Indonesia to Somalia obviously feel the same way. One year after a 9.1- magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra sparked a tsunami that killed 216,000 people in 11 countries and left about 2 million homeless, most of the affected residents are rebuilding in the very same coastal towns and villages. In Aceh, Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the Dec. 26 tsunami's fury, waterfront communities such as Lampuuk began laying cement on their own not long after the disaster—ignoring a suggestion from the central government not to rebuild closer than a kilometer to the shoreline. In Khao Lak, Thailand, five-star beach resorts have reopened and rehired former employees.

It's perhaps unrealistic to expect people or businesses to abandon their coastal communities. After all, the sea is critical to the livelihoods of most of the returnees. As Eric Schwartz, Bill Clinton's special envoy for tsunami recovery, puts it: "Disaster preparedness does not mean pushing people away from the shoreline." What it does mean is putting emergency systems in place that can save the lives of residents should there be another tsunami. On that crucial issue, Asian governments in the Indian Ocean region get poor marks thus far. While some countries are clearly more prepared to spot and respond to a tsunami than last year, others are not. And while various national disaster centers in the region are linked by computer, efforts to build a regional tsunami warning system have faltered.

Last year no country in the region had an early-warning system of any kind, nor any emergency-evacuation plans. Now only Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have deployed such systems. Even so, they can't communicate with one another, and some experts don't think they will allow authorities sufficient —time to evacuate coastal residents if a tsunami is detected. Thailand's system is somewhat makeshift and features tide gauges that are monitored for unusual variations following any nearby earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher. The catch is that it can take 30 minutes or longer to determine whether a tsunami has formed, leaving little or no time to order an evacuation. "I have to wait until the wave comes close to the shore," says Plodprasop Suraswadi, director of Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center. "It's very risky." And not exactly reliable: last July, 1 million people were mistakenly evacuated when officials misread the tide gauges.

Indonesia's warning system is said to be superior, but it also has its critics. Made in Germany, it features 10 monitoring buoys strung from Aceh to Bali. But the system activates only when a tsunami occurs, and does not provide daily signals to disaster officials. "You can imagine a system that lays dormant for years and years—you have no assurance that it's working," says Christian Meinig, director of engineering for the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington. India won't have a warning system in place until at least 2007."

Part of the problem is that the world's best-regarded deep-sea tsunami assessment and reporting system—developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and nicknamed the DART—has a two-year waiting list. NOAA didn't anticipate selling multiple systems commercially prior to the tsunami, and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where the system is manufactured, was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Soon after the disaster, officials talked of building a single, regionwide warning system in the Indian Ocean, but the idea stalled because diplomats could not agree on which country would host the operations center. Sovereignty issues—chiefly centered on the question of whether officials in one country could order citizens in another to evacuate—also could not be resolved. For now, the idea of a regional system is stalled.

While it may not be reasonable to expect citizens to move away from the coast, their return further complicates disaster plans. Many of them are more vulnerable now than before the tsunami hit. According to the British-based aid group Oxfam International, only 20 percent of the estimated 1.8 million people left homeless by the tsunami will be in houses by the start of the new year. In India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, hundreds of thousands of victims still live in tents because there aren't enough temporary wooden or cement structures. In Aceh, where 170,000 people were killed and half a million left homeless, frustrated communities such as Lampuuk began rebuilding on their own, raising the specter of even more problems. "The topography in some of these areas was radically altered by the tsunami, and it may no longer be stable enough to build on," says one Aceh-based aid worker, who asked to remain anonymous because he's not authorized to speak to reporters. "But they're building on it anyway."

The reason for the rush is the same for the rich and the poor: their fortunes depend on the sea. Aside from a handful of fishermen who cast their nets aside in favor of living and working at inland palm-oil plantations, nearly all the survivors in Ban Nam Khem have returned and taken up their old jobs as fishermen or shop owners. "The villagers who own the land don't want to move," says Sakitian Pepliang, the village chief. "Where would they go?" Several kilometers down the road, dozens of employees of the Meridien beach resort scurry about preparing for the arrival of guests. The hotel had been open for only six weeks when the tsunami struck, killing 14 guests and staff. The resort reopened in mid-October to a smattering of European tourists. Other five-star hotels nearby are still shuttered—but with a multimillion-dollar investment at stake, along with the livelihoods of hundreds of Thai employees, the Meridien's owners quickly decided to rebuild, says Daniel Muhor, the resort's executive assistant manager.

Many of the returnees remain jittery. Supaphol, a 64-year-old furniture maker in Ban Nam Khem, erected a treehouse in the family's beachfront yard as a precaution against another giant wave. "There would be no time to run," he explains while standing on the treehouse ladder. "It's quicker just to climb." And what is to keep the tree from being toppled by another tsunami? Supaphol's daughter Oy, who lost her 15-year-old daughter in the disaster, says she recites Buddhist prayers daily to protect their rebuilt house and the tree, and ward off the threat of another monster wave. "I'm still scared," she says. Who can blame her?

With Lorien Holland in Kuala Lumpur© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Shock therapy for Sri Lanka's tsunami-hit children

WebIndia: 10/12/2005"

When the sea suddenly rose and the water came into their home during last year's tsunami, Santina lost her home and two sisters. A year later, the 15-year-old was brought back to the same place to get over the worst nightmare of her life. It was a traumatic experience for Santina but the shock of confronting the sea again was meant to help her heal after the Dec 26 tsunami of last year.

Lacking other methods to ease the children's nightmares, the nurses resorted to shock therapy by taking Santina and others back to the place they once called home.

"I was afraid when the aunts recently took us back to visit the seaside for the first time," the girl said, referring to her children home's nurses.

Santina and her three sisters were dropped off by their mentally ill mother at the children's home long before the devastating tsunami swept the Sri Lankan coast, killing 35,000 people there and 191,000 more in 11 other countries.

Not only did the tsunami take with it two of Santina's sisters it also claimed 121 of the 175 children who lived in the home and the building itself.

The surge threw many children into the barbed wire fence that surrounded the building. Only 30 bodies were recovered, the rest were swept out to sea.

Mullaittivu on Sri Lanka's northeastern coast lost 3,000 of its 15,000 inhabitants and most of its structures.

Along the ocean front not a single house was left standing, only the facade and the steeple of the village church withstood the powerful wave.

"It looks like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb explosion," remarked a shocked relief worker shortly after the catastrophe.

Relief workers have since cleared away the debris in the town 280 km northeast of Colombo - the baby bottles, toys, photos and all the other silent witnesses of the drama that unfolded and lay littering the area weeks after the disaster.

A new children's home is nearly completed for the survivors in Devipuram, deep in Sri Lanka's interior and far away from the sea.

For the past year, the children have been living together with their nurses in cramped sheds christened 'Senthalir', the Tamil name for a toddler.

The toddlers themselves don't lead easy lives, despite the affection given to them by their nurses.

The survivors were soon joined by 51 more children orphaned by the tsunami, all having to share the restricted space, sleeping snuggled one against the other on mattresses laid out on the floor.

Just recently, an impoverished father added another resident when he dropped off his child at the shelter, sheepishly asking whether the nurses could care for the kid.

For Santina, leaving the home is an unlikely possibility. Her mother's condition deteriorated upon hearing that two of her daughters died in the tsunami. She is now confined to a psychiatric asylum.

But Santina and her 10-year-old sister are bravely accepting their fate.

"When I think about my dead sisters, it is hard," she said, "but I am still grateful that I have the opportunity to live here at the home."

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Treasury Secy. raps donors

Daily Mirror: 12/12/2005" By Poornima Weerasekara

Calls for urgent disbursement of loans for approved development projects, says intl bureaucracy is probably worse than local set up

Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara on Friday urged the donor community to expedite the disbursement of funds pledged to Sri Lanka.

“$300 million projects are sitting in the pipeline. Donors need to speed up the rate at which they disburse funds,” he told financial sector professionals at the post budget conference organised by Earnest and Young (E&Y).

“International bureaucracy is probably worse than the local setup. We can’t waste 3-4 years sitting on projects,” he added.

Highlighting several languishing projects such as the southern expressway and the US$40 million assigned for plantation sector development that has been idling for 7 years in a DFCC bank account, Dr. Jayasundara noted that the inefficient procedures and complacency on the part of the donor community has been a bottleneck to the effective utilisation of the aid pledged.

Adding that donors sometimes “do not do things their way nor do they let us do things our way,” Dr. Jayasundara shed light on the tsunami housing effort, where 55,000 houses have been built using the owner driven model whereas only 3,000 houses have been built so far by donor driven initiatives.

He also stressed that during his tenure as the Treasury Secretary he has signed for aid with a cumulative figure of about US$ 6 billion. “We can definitely create a new Sri Lanka with this money if it is disbursed appropriately,” he added.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

A day in the life of a Sri Lankan tea worker

WSWS: 09/12/2005" By Jayanthi Perera

Five days after Sri Lanka’s new government was installed on November 23, the state-owned Daily News carried a front-page headline, “Urgent action to uplift estate workers.” The article pompously announced that President Mahinda Rajapakse had instructed Milroy Fernando, the new plantation minister, to give priority to “uplifting the estate sector workers who have been perennially suffering abject poverty and misery”.

A ministerial project report will supposedly “detail a wide range of shortcomings confronting the estate population, covering health, education, economic conditions, unemployment among estate youth, drinking water, land erosion, access road and passenger transport”.

This is not the first time that plantation workers have heard pledges of this kind. Despite numerous past promises to improve living conditions, the situation facing workers continues to deteriorate. A World Bank report on Sri Lanka released early this year found that poverty among plantation workers increased by 50 percent over the decade from 1991-92 to 2002.

World Socialist Web Site reporters recently visited the Kurukude division of the Aislaby estate, which is located near Bandarawela in the central hills, 210 kilometres from Colombo. The private estate is owned by Malwatte Valley Plantations. Approximately 1,300 workers are employed on the plantation and 50 families live in the Kurukude division. The terrible conditions faced by workers on the estate are indicative of those experienced by Sri Lanka’s agricultural working class.

The plantation workers live in “line rooms,” which are 5 or 6 small adjoining units. Each family’s unit measures just 6 x 4 metres. The dwellings were first built by British colonial planters for workers brought from South India—forebears of the present plantation workers. With the expansion of workers’ families from generation to generation, the tiny units have had to be partitioned with thin brick walls or polythene to provide accommodation for married couples. In some cases, two to three families have to share a single line house.

“I am 30 years old and a mother of three children,” one plantation worker told the WSWS. “I studied only up to grade 4. I have one younger brother and two younger sisters. Our father became ill and died when we were small. Our mother couldn’t afford food and schooling for us, so we were not able to continue our education. My brother managed to go up to grade 10 only because my sisters and I started working in the estate when we were 14 and 15. I have been working here for about 15 years now, but have been unable to save any money.”

On a typical day, this worker wakes up at 4.30 in the morning, in order to report to work at 7.30 a.m. In the morning she is so busy preparing breakfast for her children, getting them ready for school and attending her sick mother that she has no time for her own morning meal.

“My eldest child is eight years old and goes to school with other children in the estate,” she continued. “She has to walk more than one and a half kilometres every school day in the morning and evening. What can I do? We can’t afford to pay for school vans. I drop my two younger children at the crèche on my way to work. I also have to bring food and water for them and leave it at the crèche. I provide them rice with a single curry or roti [bread]. I only can give them milk in the morning.”

Workers who pluck tea leaves begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 4 or 4.30 p.m. Supervisors shout at anyone who takes even a single minute’s break during work hours, and management demands that each worker reach their harvest target of 18-20 kilograms of tea leaves per day, irrespective of whether there are enough tea leaves to pick or not.

“At noon we have our lunch break, after handing over our harvest,” the plantation worker said. “By 12.15 p.m. I have usually returned home with my younger children after picking them up from them crèche. After attending to my children and eating the lunch I prepared in the morning, I hurry back to work.

“On the way home in the evening we collect firewood for cooking. It is about 5 to 5.30 p.m. by the time we return. We have a chance to sit down with our children and have a shared meal only at night. By the end of the day we feel very tired and go to sleep at about 9 p.m. to start the same routine the following day.”

There are only three water taps for the 50 families on the division, and these operate for just 90 minutes each day. Workers are forced to queue to collect water for their families, and in the dry season they must go to a nearby village in search of water. Workers explained that Sinhalese villagers also have a water problem. Only plantation management staff are supplied with water from a tanker.

Sanitary facilities are in a terrible state. Two or three families are forced to share a single toilet, which has no water supply. A young female worker told the WSWS about the substandard health facilities on the estate. “Because essential medicines are not available at estate dispensary we have to go to the estate doctor’s bungalow,” she explained. “There is only Panadol, tablets and a liquid for cleaning wounds in the dispensary.”

Education facilities for Tamil-speaking plantation children are extremely poor. The Bandarawela educational zone requires about 800 teachers, but only 500 teachers are presently employed. Most of plantation youth have to abandon their education by grade 6 or 7, and in some cases even before then. No one from the Aislaby estate school has passed G.C.E. (ordinary level) since 1999.

Youth unemployment is rampant. Young people have lost all hope of finding work on the estate. Boys have left to find menial jobs as waiters or helpers in small hotels and shops in surrounding towns or in Colombo. The girls often have to work as domestic servants in the cities.

Even for those who find work harvesting tea leaves, wages are extremely low. As the plantation worker told the WSWS: “We would also like to have a decent life. But my three children, my mother and I all are maintained by my wage. My husband doesn’t have permanent work and is forced to rely on daily odd jobs. In the wet season he has difficulty finding work. To find a job in the town [Bandarawela] he has to spend about 22 rupees on bus fares to earn a wage of only 150-200 rupees [$US1.50 to $2] a day. However, Tamils have difficulty finding work.

“My wage is mainly spent on settling our monthly debts at the grocery. We buy on credit, and as the prices go up our debts go up too. I receive about 3,000-3,500 rupees per month. I can earn a 1,000 more in seasons with a good harvest. However, due to a lack of maintenance, the harvests are decreasing. When we become ill or face other trouble, we become further indebted.

“We are not interested in who becomes the president. We don’t have confidence in any leader. I am talking to you because I have known your party [the Socialist Equality Party] for a long time and what you said has come true.”

There are a number of trade unions on the estates, such as the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Up Country People’s Front (UPF) and Red Flag. “They are doing nothing except collecting our monthly dues,” the plantation worker declared contemptuously.

Tamil plantation workers are among the most impoverished and oppressed layers of the working class. Immediately after independence in 1948, the government stripped them of their citizenship rights in an effort to whip up communal divisions between Tamil and Sinhala workers. A 1963 pact between New Delhi and Colombo saw hundreds of thousands of people deported to South India. Other Tamil estate workers have managed to gain citizenship over a number of years, but they are still treated as second-class citizens.

Plantation workers are burdened with onerous work, paid poverty-level wages and provided with terrible living facilities. The estate owners, on the other hand, reap large profits. A recent report published in the Sri Lankan press highlighted the earnings of Malwatte Valley Plantations, which owns the Aislaby estate. In the three months to June 30 this year, the firm recorded a gross profit of 65 million rupees. In 2004, the company’s gross profit totalled 228 million rupees.

The present government has no intention of altering this system of exploitation any more than previous ones. President Rajapakse’s promises of “uplifting plantation workers” are just as empty as those made to other sections of the working class and rural poor. What will be implemented is the agenda of the IMF and World Bank, which will further erode the already appalling living standards facing many workers.

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Huge increase in power demand

Sunday Observer: 11/12/2005"

The demand for power will grow at 7.6 percent per year reaching 7.619 MW in the year 2025, an increase of over 400 percent over the current demand according to the findings of a study undertaken by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) since January last year.

The study titled "Master Plan Study on the Development Power Generation and Transmission System in Sri Lanka" says an additional generation capacity of 7,615 MW needs to be installed in the next 20 years. In order to carry out the necessary construction of power plants the study points to the need for increased investments in the power sector. It also calls for restructuring of the CEB to improve its finances and the introduction of a better tariff adjustment mechanism.

Referring to the construction of proposed Norochcholai and Kerawalapitiya power plants the study says any delays will lead to serious negative consequences including blackouts and sharp hikes in power tariff.

A stakeholder meeting last week held at the Trans Asia Hotel, Colombo discussed the findings of the study. Meanwhile, the JICA and the CEB will be handing over their final report to the government in February 2006.

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Local experts appeal to President : Trust us to rebuild

Sunday Observer: 11/12/2005" by Lionel Yodhasinghe

Clear the present administrative red-tape and other hurdles and give us an opportunity to enable us to contribute towards the task of building a new Sri Lanka concept introduced by President Mahinda Rajapakse, local engineers and businessmen say.

An electrical engineer, senior lecturer of the Moratuwa University now serves as a UNIDO Consultant in rural electrification and poverty alleviation in Rwanda and Burundi Dr. Nishantha Nanayakkara who claimed the successful completion of Rs. 100 million worth mini hydro power projects in the country, said many development projects of other kind could be implemented successfully if the local professionals and experts concerned are given partnership.

Dr. Nanayakkara who is also the President of the Grid Connected Small Power Developers Association told the Sunday Observer that local engineers and prospective entrepreneurs would come forward in numbers to contribute their expertise and invest in manyfold projects earmarked in the President's action policy program for rapid development, provided, he takes pragmatic actions to remove the present stumbling blocks in the way of local professionals.

It is a well known fact that since independence, successive rulers from the elite used election pledges to cajole the common man. The man who rode them to the throne was neglected later, while a privileged class of people thronged around the rulers, used political power to plunder the national assets which brought the same rulers with defeats and destruction to the nation.

Although the people knew this cycle of political injustice, there was no opportunity availed for them to react until Mahinda Rajapakse, a true representative of the masses was picked to run the race.

People responded vehemently in the Presidential elections 2005, and taking over the seat of the head of state by a man of their hope has invigorated the nation. As local experts, we believe that a man who is down- to earth as Rajapakse would value the local assets, talents of the locals and use them fully in his development efforts under Mahinda Chintanaya.

We also believe that this is the correct time for us to intervene, putting our skills and talents into use, which is our duty towards a patriotic and national agenda of the President. Therefore, we are ever ready to work hand in hand with the new President to make his development effort victorious.

The task in front of the President is hard. Among them two issues are vital, reviving the country's depreciating economy, and finding a new strategy in achieving lasting peace. As a leader, he would have to take firm decisions and stern action perhaps that would not go well with some parties.

The major ongoing projects in the country funded by the World Bank and the IMF have been given over to foreign contractors, thereby pocketing huge amounts of money as commissions and other perks to a few privileged persons, including politicians and other biased officers in the state sector. This has deprived local entrepreneurs as well as professionals and as a consequence, many local experts who may know the job better, have gone abroad on well-paid jobs.

Exorbitant

Removal of this clique of the corrupted from the political and official grip, and changing the system to give way equally to the local professional is imperative in getting their services for the development.

And this would enable the government to reduce the cost of every project comparatively to exorbitant estimates by foreign companies.

No developing country would achieve its goals without foreign investors, foreign aid and loans. But the government should not allow foreign companies to implement these projects under their sole entrepreneurship. Government should mediate and allow local collaborators to join such project, under a win-win situation, if a nation is to thrive from foreign debts. Other countries such as India were able to gain success using WB and other foreign debts accordingly, he said.

Several examples of great blunders that we made in the past are giving a monopoly to multinationals such as Shell Gas and Prima Flour. It is imperative to regularise the agreement with such world giants and allow other competitors to enter the race. Similarly, luring foreign investors to the country should also be arranged in such a manner as to ensure that the investor brings money to the country.

Investors such as IOC which efficiently offers a small portion of shares at the Colombo Stock Exchange (IPO was oversubscribed more than three times) and without paying any tax, the company took back the total money invested within a short time. This is clear evidence that there are prospective investors in the country who should be given a chance to invest their money efficiently.

Therefore government mediation, collaboration of foreign and local partnership, mixed project management system, using the enterprise skill and money is the most apt method to develop our country.

Half of the country's development could be achieved through small and medium projects which could be implemented with a capital less than Rs. 10 million. Projects of this nature should not require any foreign assistance.

Low interest loans should be provided to investors through government sponsored financial institutions, state banks and so on, he emphasised.

National woe

An energy crisis by 2008 would not be prevented if the country does not take remedial measures without delay. This is another challenge the country faces in its development goals. All facilities should be made available to produce power through low cost means such as mini-hydro and bio gas production.

Renewable energy is an energy economical source of power for a country like ours, and the present thermal power system which costs several times more than the selling price of an electricity unit should be discouraged, he said.

It is evident that individual interests of certain politicians, CEB officials and private businessmen are taking every possible action to stop any remedy to this national woe, because they fear that millions of money pocketed unscrupulously by international thermal power dealers would stop, if the country finds its own source of energy. Commencing of the Norochcholai and Upper Kotmale power projects were still pending as a consequence to such conspiracies.

Today 35 per cent of the population has no access to electricity but such people too pay to provide electricity to the rest of the population because electricity is heavily subsidised.

The CEB loses Rs. 135.5 million a month and CEB takes loans from state and private banks at higher rates to settle these losses.

The banks take this as an excuse to charge the same rates from small entrepreneurs too because of the competition. This situation has stopped the small time enterprising people from thriving themselves and, this has prevented newcomers to small and medium sector businesses and other ventures. Currently, CEB needs another 300MW of low cost power to meet the present demand, and there is a shortage of power generation in this capacity.

This situation will be worsened with the increasing demand of eight per cent annually. Therefore the Government should commence the 300MW renewable power project as proposed in a previous UPFA budget, he said.

He said that the communication sector could be taken as an example of development through state and private sector partnership operation and management. Making a call to any end of the world is that simple today, due to the rapid change and development in the sector. Companies belonging to state and private sector are doing well while offering competitive rates which are reasonable and affordable to any wage earner or the poor man today.

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