Even after a lapse of sixteen months, red-tape, political favoritism and bureaucratic bungling has led to several of the tsunami victims still being left homeless in Galle. Life however goes on for them although they are slowly losing hope in ever getting their livelihoods back, some even wishing that their lives were taken away by the tsunami, rather than waking up to another day of uncertainty.
“People who have not even been affected by the waves have received permanent housing while we are still stuck here suffering,” said N.K. Shyamali from a shelter near the Dodanduwa Bridge in Galle.
Eight families live in these transit homes in Galle who say it was given to them by the JVP. Most of these families, including about twenty children, were involved in the fishing industry before the tsunami.
“Now we live with what we can earn on a day to day basis,” Shyamali said, adding that when the government distributed houses it did not go to the people who really needed them. “At first, when we were subjected to a 100 metre restriction, there were so many people ready to build us houses. But after they restricted it to 35 metres there is hardly anyone to help us,” she explained. “There are 400 houses still to be given out in the Monroviyawatta and nothing has been done yet.”
Still fearing to venture out to sea, they say that their children suffer with the images of the tsunami. “They wake up at night screaming sometimes,” Shyamali remarked.
G.H. Banduseeli who is trying her best to make ends meet remains a sustainable force in the Koggala Transit Camp, close to the Singhadeevara village. Her father had died long before the tsunami and Banduseeli, who owned a small dressmaking shop, also lost her mother to the tsunami.
“They didn’t recognize me for compensation because I wasn’t in the householders’ list,” she said adding that she received a sewing machine from an NGO and was managing to make ends meet with her little shop. “We do not even have proper drinking water. So I pay for a bowser to come and fill a tank near my house,” she said, adding that people in the area pay her for the water, helping her to cover the cost.
The Habaraduwa Transit Camp is situated in the former G.V.S. De Silva Primary School which has been moved to another part of the town now. Again subjected to the 100 metre restriction, the families here could not reconstruct their homes and hardly received any compensation from the government.
Most of them have had small businesses before the tsunami. “The shelter we live in now was made by the Dutch Church in Galle,” said one of the residents adding that they had to use a common kitchen to cook their meals.“We have repeatedly gone to the relevant authorities, written to the President and to Ministers, but we are still where we were two years ago,” she went on echoing the sentiments of the others whose only wish is to be able to survive.