pours in: Can govt. handle it alone?
Expatriate Sri Lankans concerned over where their donations
will end up
As aid poured into Sri Lanka, the government was
still grappling with problems of co-ordination, and ensuring that
the right people received the right relief.
of overseas Sri Lankans rallied round the cause turning viharas,
churches, kovils and mosques, as well as community halls and people's
residences into collecting centres - but there was one hitch, the
government missions were insisting that all relief will be sent
only to the President's Fund Disaster Relief Centre.
Sri Lankans have expressed unhappiness over Sri Lankan missions
being given this directive from Colombo saying that if they did
not have confidence in the relief material, including medicines
and funds reaching the end-beneficiaries intended in the exercise,
they should be given the option of more private channels through
which they could send relief.
those who have taken issue is SMIES, a well-known Baptist Church
organisation which says it does not mind giving a portion of its
collections to the President's Office, but it has its own local
contacts in Sri Lanka who are victims, and would like to look after
organisation has 40 tonnes of clothing earlier ear-marked for East
Europe now awaiting transportation to Sri Lanka, but caught up with
these directives from Colombo.
Colombo, SriLankan Airlines spokesman Chandana de Silva said the
national carrier was willing to transport relief cargo free-of-charge,
but with large consignments piling up at Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai
and London airports awaiting transportation to Colombo, it may have
to reconsider its decision shortly.
in London Sri Lankans were complaining that the airline was only
accepting cargo sent via the High Commission. Other airlines such
as Ethihad and Qatar had also given selected agents the right to
send cargo gratis.
freight forwarding associations were offering free space in their
containers, but some were announcing they would limit the cargo
to those 'that will be distributed by those appointed by the President'.
question being asked was whether, considering the magnitude of the
problem Sri Lanka was facing, the Colombo government alone could
handle all the relief coming from abroad.
the US, Sri Lanka's Ambassador Devinda Subasinghe was calling for
contributions to private NGOs. This raised a protest from officials
in the Foreign Ministry, but the envoy explained this was done because
those who contribute to US-based NGOs can get tax exemptions, while
they do not receive that benefit if they contribute direct to the
Government of Sri Lanka.
London, the British public has collected over 100 million pounds
( Rs. 20 billion ) through media appeals for victims of the tsunami
in the South Asian region. Meanwhile the Katunayake airport was
finding it difficult to cope with the incoming aid flights with
the authorities failing to providing them additional landing space.
70 aircraft were held up in other countries awaiting permission
for landing, Airport and Aviation Authority sources said. But, aviation
sources pointed out that if the adjoining Katunayake Air Force base
had been able to provide landing facilities it would have expedited
the unloading of aid.
is a possibility some of this aid being diverted to other countries
affected by the tsunami", the sources added. Meanwhile, the
World Food Programme (WFP) has given Sri Lanka food valued at US
$ 2.2 million, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) released
relief items valued at US $ 380,000, UNICEF has brought medical
kits for 15 hospitals to service the needs of 150,000 people for
three months, and the UNFPA has committed US $ 250,000, the WHO
has provided 900,000 water purification tablets, and the UN Office
for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has allocated
US $ 50,000. Other UN agencies such as the UNDP, ADB, IOM and FAO
were also chipping in with assistance, a release from the UN said.
Secretary General Kofi Annan said that he was 'satisfied' with the
response from the world community after a UN relief official had
stated that Western countries were 'stingy' in helping developing
countries. UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan
Egeland had earlier said the catastrophe in the Indian Ocean would
require bigger levels of aid by rich countries.
had said that at Christmas time at least, these Western countries
should remind themselves how rich they have become. The US Embassy
stated that US $ 2.5 million has been given to Sri Lanka through
USAID as emergency assistance apart from other assistance, including
30 US military planning and logistics personnel.
to the Foreign Ministry so far over 55 countries have come forth
with aid. The goods and personnel received include helicopters,
aircraft, inflatable craft, special task forces, medical experts,
medicines and other medical items, tents, blankets, plastic sheets,
water treatment material, generators, etc.
large number of foreign medical personnel and rescue teams have
also arrived in Sri Lanka. "It is difficult to evaluate the
worth of the material goods we have received, yet over Rs. 400 million
have been received in cash," a ministry official said.
some governments had allocated aid for all the affected countries,
she said, it is still not clear how much will be received by Sri
Lanka alone. When asked who the most generous donor was so far,
she replied, "It is unfair to say anything as every act of
generosity is equally appreciated."
to Swiss ambassador Bernardino Regaezzoni the government of Switzerland
has committed US $ 22 million as funds for all the countries affected.
Two teams have been dispatched to the affected areas in Sri Lanka
to assess the damage.
in various forms to the value of 400,000 Swiss francs have arrived
here already" he said. What is significant however is that
the donor countries include some that were themselves affected by
the disaster. As a symbolic gesture, countries such as Malaysia,
Maldives, Bangladesh and Indonesia have reached out to help the
victims of Sri Lanka.
number of private organisations in the country ran campaigns to
collect funds and various relief items for the victims with television
and radio stations informing the public of the urgent needs of the