Feature Article

Colombo’s post tsunami development blueprint assailed

[TamilNet, Sunday, 23 January 2005, 03:03 GMT]
Plan drawn up as a blueprint for post-tsunami development by the “Task force to Rebuild the Nation” (TAFREN), one of the three committees comprising the Center for National Operations (CNO) set up by Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunge, announced Monday, is assailed as being immoral, hastily produced, too centralized and conceived without adequate consultation with organizations whose support is vital for the plan's successful execution.

The inaugural meeting of the National Advisory CouncilSri Lanka is the first to submit such plan among countries that were severely affected by tsunami of December 26th.

The plan details the new infracture Sri Lanka is planning to spend $1.5 billion of the $3.5b tsunami recovery budget pledged by donors and contains many flagship projects. “Sixty two townships, each with apartments, stadiums and commercial space, a new electric railway system of 120 km from Colombo to the south, pipe borne water and sewage systems in eight-tsunami affected districts. Improving a 89km stretch of key highway from the Colombo suburb of Panadura, to the southern city of Galle, developing the southern port of Hambantota with container handling facilities and eastern port in Oluvil,” Reuters quoted from the document it obtained.

North-South Journalists“If the plan goes through as it is, it would be taking immoral advantage of the suffering of people. The world gave this money because they saw people suffering, and the money should go to the victims,” Reuters report quoted Jehan Perera, director of the National Peace Council, as saying.

“Although trumpeted as a comprehensive reconstruction plan in the state media, the document appeared to be hastily drawn up. Even some of the numbers do not add up,” Reuters report further commented on the contents of the blueprint.

JVP in ColomboThe highly centralized structure of the CNO and its component Task Forces, TAFREN, TAFRER (Rescue and Relief) and TAFLOL (Logistics Law and Order) have already come under attack from various quarters. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), marxist Sinhala extremist party which is a main constituent of the Sri Lanka Government coalition has accused the Sri Lanka President of excluding them of decision making process with regards to delivery of aid.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians complained to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) president and other diplomats on Government of Sri Lanka’s tendency to avoid “local participation in the processes related to decision-making and implementation,” by centralizing the relief distribution and longer term reconstruction effort.

“..centralization approach may also create a massive bureaucracy, as is being reported in the context of the Indian and Sri Lankan governmental efforts in tsunami relief. It is therefore imperative that organizations make independent decisions – which regions to supply to and how much,” a researcher from Tulane University USA said.

Norwegian International Development Minister, Ms. Hilde Frafjord Ms. Hilde JohnsonVisiting Norwegian delegation comprising Foreign Minister Jan Peterson and Norwegian Minister of International Development, Hilde F. Johnson are widely believed to hold the view that the current centralized relief delivery structures will not work and have been urging Colombo to formulate mechanisms that facilitate equitable distribution of relief to affected people across Sri Lanka. Ms Johnson said in Colombo Saturday that she hoped there would be "decentralisation" of the funding for relief efforts.

Mr.A.BalasinghamLiberation Tigers’ Political Strategist and Chief Negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, said after the meeting with the Norwegian delegation, that for effective and equitable delivery of relief “regional mechanisms” agreed upon by the two warring parties, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers, are necessary, further advocating radical decentralization.

TRO ReggieAnother serious defect in the blueprint is how it was formulated. The plan was conceived with little consultation with the other parties in the South or with Liberation Tigers whose cooperation is essential for carrying out any reconstruction efforts in NorthEast. The “document lists several projects in the northern Mullaittivu district which is virtually entirely rebel held, but makes no mention of any plans to work with the Tigers.” Asked how the government planned to allow aid to go into rebel-held areas Lalith Weeratunga [of TAFREN] said: “Obviously it will... but I don’t know how it will be done,” Reuters reported.

Director of Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) Mr Reggie and Deputy Director of Planning and Development Secretariat (PDS) of Liberation Tigers, Mr Maran, told TamilNet they were not consulted nor did they have any input to the document produced by the TAFREN.


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