Feature Article

Dismal state response reveals need for ISGA - TNA

[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 January 2005, 11:36 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government’s insensitive and ineffectual relief efforts in the Northeast in the wake of the Asian tsunami disaster has reinforced the need for an interim administration for the region as demanded by its residents, Tamil parliamentarians argued Sunday.

Mr.SampanthanThe government’s insistence on centralising relief efforts has created bottle necks and is hampering the urgent assistance of hundreds of thousands of people, Sri Lanka’s largest Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said in a press release.

The TNA also slammed the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to let the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, from visiting areas held by the Liberation Tigers during his visit to the island this evening.

“It is significantly unfortunate the UN Secretary General was not afforded the opportunity of visiting, seeing for himself, and interacting with the people of the Tsunami hit areas in the North, despite the Mullaitivu district being one of the worst affected,” TNA Parliamentary Group Leader, R. Sampanthan.

He was speaking at a meeting attended by Mr. Annan and hosted by Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the Presidential Secretariat.

“A visit to Mullaitivu would have given [the Secretary General] a more complete picture of the calamity and the mechanisms that need to be structured to alleviate the sufferings of all peoples,” he said.

“It could have also helped to evolve a way for the commencement of dialogue between the government and the LTTE and thereby added strength to the peace process,” Mr. Sampanthan said, calling for another visit by Mr. Annan to Sri Lanka in which he could visit the north.

Mr. Sampanthan criticised the Sri Lankan government’s insistence on centralised relief operations, saying privately donated aid was being seized by the security forces while Sinhala troops were forcibly taking over refugee camps in which Tamil-speaking victims had sought refuge.

“It would be a mistake for the government to think that further centralization would enable it to deal with the calamity,” he said.

Kofi Annan“Medicines being brought in by teams of doctors from within the Tamil Diaspora and international friends to help alleviate the sufferings of the victims are sought to be taken over by government and retained in its own warehouses under some centralized control,” Mr. Sampanthan said.

“Consequent to the deployment of the armed forces who are almost exclusively Sinhala in several welfare centers in the Trincomalee district, occupied by displaced Tamil people, such displaced people have vacated the welfare centers though they had no houses to return to. They need to be provided with temporary accommodation immediately,” he said.

“There should be no interference with the free wish of individuals or institutions to be of service to whomever they desire to help. This should be particularly so with regard to medical facilities. The bottleneck that is evolving in regard to medical facilities should be removed,” the TNA Parliamentary Group Leader insisted.

Mr. Sampanthan called for the establishment of an interim administration for the Northeast as demanded by residents of the Northeast, who he pointed out had overwhelmingly backed the TNA on the basis for its support for the Interim Sefl-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposed by the LTTE.

“The wishes of the people of the Northeast as clearly given expression to at the last General Elections and over the past several decades’ needs to be respected if the calamity is to be effectively and efficiently addressed in the Northeast,” he said.

“There is an imperative need for a mechanism in the Northeast to deal with the calamity. An equitable distribution of international assistance as between the different peoples could be ensured only through such a mechanism.”

The TNA, in a statement released separately, said these issues had also been raised with Mr. Annan when he met with senior TNA MPs Sunday.

The TNA impressed upon the Secretary General that “the only way to ensure a just and equitable distribution of international financial assistance to the Northeast and the rendering of effective and efficient services in regard to relief and reconstruction, is to set up a mechanism in the Northeast to deal with the Tsunami disaster.”

“The TNA also stated that centralization of the relief and reconstruction efforts and the formulation of plans at the center without consultation with the affected people and without local participation would not produce effective and efficient results in dealing with the calamity.”

On the other hand, “in LTTE controlled territory, such coping mechanisms have been in place during the period of the conflict to address humanitarian needs. These efficient, tried and tested mechanisms have had the fullest involvement of the affected local community,” the TNA said.

“The TNA also explained to the Secretary General the services rendered by the LTTE and the TRO in providing relief to the affected people. The Secretary General stated that he was aware of same, and commended the efforts of the LTTE and the TRO.”

“The TNA also stated that the experience of the Tamil people in the past 50 years made us very skeptical and that we were not prepared to place our faith in governments’ pious pronouncements.”

The TNA further stated that “the actions of the government were not conflict sensitive and that the deployment of the armed forces who are almost exclusively Sinhala in composition, in welfare centers occupied almost entirely by Tamil people, resulting in the Tamil people who had lost their houses vacating the welfare centers, and the non-inclusion of a visit by the Secretary General to the North including Mullaitivu, one of the worst affected districts were clear instances of such insensitivity.”

“The Secretary General assured the TNA that the UN would do its utmost to address the concerns that were conveyed to him,” the TNA said.

The TNA said another delegation had met with Mr. World Bank President James Wolfensohn on Saturday and conveyed the same concerns to him.

“Mr. Wolfensohn was also very cordial and receptive, and assured the TNA delegation that our concerns will be taken up with the relevant authorities and that the World Bank would do its best,” the TNA said.


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