Solheim to Participate in the Opening Ceremonies of Buddhist Temples

[TamilNet, Monday, 23 January 2006, 11:28 GMT]
Norwegian Minister of International Development Mr. Erik Solheim will attend the Opening Ceremony, on 26 January, of two Buddhist temples damaged by the tsunami. The temples have been reconstructed with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to a press release issued by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, Monday.

Full text of the press release follows:

-The tsunami took a terrible toll on Sri Lanka and the lives of its people. Its human cost cannot be quantified in physical terms alone. Religious institutions in Sri Lanka have played an important role in providing shelter and support from the very first moments after the tsunami. They have served as pillars in the reconstruction of the country, and they have offered solace and comfort to those in grief. I hope and trust that these temples, reconstructed with the assistance of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will continue their invaluable contribution to rebuilding Sri Lankan society, Mr Solheim said.

The two temples will be officially reopened on 26 January. The first ceremony will take place at 10 am at Dharmadveepa Yogashramaya, Kalawilawatta, Aluthgama. The second ceremony is scheduled for 2 pm at Sri Sumanaramaya, Venamulla, Kuleegoda, Ambalangoda.

As part of Norway’s continued support to the people who suffered grave losses during the tsunami, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently providing support for the reconstruction of an additional 30 Buddhist temples in southern Sri Lanka and 35 religious buildings in the east, including Buddhist Temples, Hindu Kovils, Mosques and Churches.

Norway has a deep and long-standing committment to the peace and reconcilliation process in Sri Lanka. This committment goes hand in hand with Norway’s development cooperation programme with Sri Lanka, which was initiated already in the 1970s. When the tsunami hit the shores of the country on 26 December 2004 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore reacted quickly to the disaster, allocating around USD 10 million for immediate humanitarian relief operations through a number of national and international organisations. An additional USD 10 million was allocated to various UN agencies in response to their Flash Appeals to assist the victims of the disaster.

Norway also earmarked USD 20 million for the P-TOMS. The Norwegian funds will now be channeled to the affected populations of the tsunami through other mechanisms.

An additional USD 20 million was allocated to the medium-term rehabilitation work within the sectors of education, livelyhoods and fishery. Also these funds have been channelled through various national and international organisations and UN agencies.

Norway committed over USD 60 million to the relief and rehabilitation efforts in Sri Lanka in 2005. This is more than a third of Norway’s total contribution of USD 150 million to the countries in the region affected by the tsunami. These funds come in addition to funds collected privatly by Norwegian humanitarian organisations working in Sri Lanka, which were also substantial.

There will be a short press conference from 3.00 to 3.30 pm immediately after the second ceremony in Ambalangoda on Thursday 26 January.


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