UN slams govt, LTTE over slow progress
27 December, 2006.
The United Nations slammed Sri Lanka’s warring parties for stalling tsunami reconstruction efforts yesterday as the island marked the second anniversary of the disaster.
The outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan blamed both Colombo and the Tamil Tiger rebels for the violence that has slowed rebuilding after the December 26, 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 31,000 people in the island.
In a statement, he said the conflict between the government and rebels had made reconstruction even more difficult in the mainly Buddhist nation.
“No one could have prevented the tsunami’s wave of destruction. But together we can stem the tide of conflict, which threatens once again to engulf the people of Sri Lanka,” Annan said.
Peacebroker Norway tried to arrange a sharing of the huge foreign aid for reconstruction between the government and the Tigers, but the Supreme Court shot down the idea last year, saying it violated the constitution.
Since then, the two sides have escalated attacks against each other, with both blaming the other for the rising violence that has virtually halted all reconstruction work in the embattled northeast.
Rebel areas suffered the most damage in the tsunami. More than two-thirds of reconstruction is in the northern and eastern regions, mostly held by the Tigers.
In contrast, Indonesia, which suffered the biggest losses, was praised by Annan, who noted a spirit of solidarity in troubled Indonesia’s Aceh province following the disaster, which killed 220,000 people around Asia.
“Alas, in Sri Lanka, that spirit has not been sustained. Instead, the spiral of tension and open conflict, which had wrought so much misery and destruction over the years, has resumed,” Annan said.
“I am deeply disheartened by this turn of events. Let me remind all parties of their obligation to respect human rights... and particularly to protect and allow access to the civilian population.”
President Mahinda Rajapake, who last year admitted reconstruction was too slow, led the nation Tuesday in remembering tsunami victims.
He observed a moment’s silence at his office here and was due to unveil a statue of Buddha at the site where 1,000 passengers died when their train was wrecked by the tsunami.
Sri Lanka also declared yesterday “national safety day”.
The disaster management ministry set up after the tsunami said the date would be marked by ceremonies aimed at creating awareness on how to deal with
“We want to move on,” a presidential spokesman said.
Official records and whistle blowers say corruption and violence is still blocking foreign aid for tsunami
Only 56% of the estimated 100,000 devastated homes have been rebuilt, officials say. Thousands still live in tents.
Sri Lanka received $3.2bn in foreign aid pledges but how much of that was received is not known. The state auditor general in September 2005 noted that out of $1.16bn committed by donors, only 13.5% had been spent. Since then, there has been no fresh government audit. – AFP
Published: Wed Dec 27 16:17:25 EST 2006