"Government projects misleading picture of ground realities"
While the country today marks the third anniversary of the 2004 tsunami, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) says government claims of having rebuilt more than the number of houses damaged or destroyed by the deadly tidal wave was a "misleading picture of ground realities."
Media Minister Anura Priyadharashana Yapa claimed last week that the government was way ahead in terms of tsunami reconstruction and more houses will be built in the New Year.
The government claims that 99,497 houses have been completed, exceeding the total requirement of 98,525 houses, but there is an acute shortage of houses in the Eastern province TISL said." For example, in Muttur only 422 houses were built through donor and owner driven housing construction programs in place of 1249 houses destroyed. Thus, government statistics represent a misleading picture of ground realities. It should guarantee and respect the right to housing of the affected North and East communities."
The TISL’s rebuttal of government claims, follows the World Bank’s contention that about 15,000 families are still without permanent houses, three years after the Tsunami struck, killing 40,000 Sri Lankans, injuring 15,000 and displacing over a million in the biggest ever disaster the country has experienced.
Dissatisfaction among residents of newly built houses was common particularly in the South. In most cases poor quality houses or culturally and environmentally insensitive constructions challenge the healthy occupancy of the houses. Such defects should be rectified as when pointed out, it said.
"Certain Tsunami affected districts which obtained political patronage through highly influential politicians, received a disproportionate influx of aid. Political interference in selecting beneficiaries was a common complaint. This caused acute delays in occupying certain housing schemes where prolonged disputes continued between affected communities and officials."
The entire reconstruction process lacked an inherent system for survivors and beneficiaries to access information. People living in new schemes were given no information about financial expenditure and at times plans and legal documents of title of their new facilities. It is a legitimate expectation of the beneficiaries to seek information as to the process of building and financial cost of their house. However, few in the community were privy to such information, TISL said.
"The State has a duty to collate and document all the issues which made it challenging to realize the desired objectives of the reconstruction process. This is a rare opportunity for not only assuring a positive recovery process but also prepare against any future catastrophe", it added.