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Issues and new developments in relation to the reconstruction processes of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka

There are “ALARMING” new developments in the reconstruction processes in Sri Lanka which may also be the same in other affected countries.

As you know USA has rapidly increased its commitment to affected countries. “Sunday Times” (Sri Lanka ) of 2nd Jan said:

“Rapid increase in the US commitment first at US$ 12.5m , then raised to US$ 35m and now to US$ 350 million has already been officially announced. US ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead told a news conference last evening that 1400 marines would be assigned for Rebuilding work. This will be on the basis of a rebuilding programme the Government plans to announce on January 15th, he said. “The United States will deploy troops next week in Sri Lanka for humanitarian operations in terms of an understanding reached between US Secretary of States Collin Powell and foreign minister Kadiragamar yesterday.”

US Marines have already arrived and have set up base in Katunayake, next to the International Airport.

Collin Powell visited Galle,Sri Lanka briefly.

USS Bonhommie Richard, a multi purpose assault ship, together with 5 hover crafts and 20 helicopters will be inducted along with US troops schduled to come here by Wednesday. They are to setup a logistic base in Galle for operations in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. LTTE is concerned about this move. This move has already received endorsement of the Indian government. World Bank’s President James Wolfenson has planned to come to Sri Lanka quite soon. George Bush has asked George Bush (Senior) and Bill Clinton to prepare plans for Sri Lanka. US has said that the situation in Sri Lanka is considered as a security issue by the US since there are millions of people displaced and thousands are in refugee camps. It is said that these refugees are likely to be recruited by terrorist organizations. Yesterday the government took a decision to hand over the control of all refugee camps to the military. Therefore US fighting against terrorism internationally sees this as a security issue.

Since the US base in Diago Garsia is to be removed within the next few years US is looking for a safer root for oil transportation and this safe and cheaper root includes the Tricomalee harber in Sri Lanka.

Re-building process in Sri Lanka

Already the President has appointed a “Task Force to Rebuild the Nation (TAFREN)” . This Task Force comprises of some of the top most business leaders who are also the economic advisers to the President. The major opposition , UNF has come to agreements that they would work together in this process of Rebuilding. It is reported that this task force will articulate “the Way Forward with regard to Rebuilding of Sri Lanka” requests made even by several ministers to include other scientists and scholars have been ignored. The Task force will be accountable to the President through the secretary to the President.

This Task Force is as follows

Mano Tittawella – Chairman – Senior Advisor to the President

Lalith Weerathunga – Secy to the Primier

Harry Jayawardane – Chairman Stassen and Distillaries Group

Ken Balendran – Former John Keels Holdings Chairman

Mano Selvanathan – Carson Cumberbatch , Director

Mahesh Amalean – MAS Holdings Chairman

Rajan Britto – Aitken Spence, Managing Director

Nihal Fonseka – DFCC Bank CEO

Ms. Rohini Nanayakkara – Top Banker and Director of Seylan Bank

Nihal Jinasena – Jinasena Group Manging Director

Its mandates include assessment of damage and develop a detailed and comprehensive development and infrastructure rebuilding action plans to be commenced on 15th Jan 2005 and completed within one year. Following areas to be given priority

Hospitals,Schools, power, roads and bridges, railway,water supply and drainage, telecom,tourism,housing,urban development and environment, insurance and financing services, and fisheries.It will also coordinate and implement the approved action plan through the relevant line ministries, relevant Government authorities and agencies, state and private sector organizations, District Secretaries and GAs and relevant local Government agencies. This private sector heavy task force will also coordinate all donor assistance, fund raising and other financing avenues towards achieving the development and infrastructure rebuilding action plan.

Its mandate also include preparation of a draft bill to be presented to Parliament as an urgent bill to set up the authority for rebuilding the Nation (successor to TAFREN)

(Daily Mirror – Jan 4 – Sri Lanka)

It is very clear that the strategy of the Government in collaboration with WB and the Donor powers such as the USA and Japan is to use this opportunity provided by the ” tsunami”disaster to carry out the “Regaining Sri Lanka” neo Liberal economic agenda and to carry out the economic reforms and infrastucture programmes that the international capital had been trying to introduce in Sri Lanka for many years.

It has been announced that the fisher communities, who have been completely washed out almost island wide will not be allowed to resettle on the cost. They would be moved back at least 300 meters away from the sea. It is said that this shift would be for the safety of the fisher community. However it is also announced that the beaches would be used for construction of tourist hotels. This could be a move to clear the beaches and the costal areas from poor and small scale fishermen and making the possibility of tourism and big fishing industries to take over the marine resources and the beaches. The fishermen expected to shift behind do not have land for their settlement and other livelihoods. The chances are that these communities would be cramped in to tall flats.

World Bank, the Government, the major opposition and other international forces such as the USA, EU, Japan and the big businesses in Sri Lanka seem to misuse of this opportunity to introduce fully and freely their economic reforms and infrastructure plans such as Highways, new airports, harbors, city developments as they had planed earlier. The disaster has enabled the government to mobilize much larger financial resources and invite much big international forces to carry out their agenda.

This agenda included not only displacement of fishers but also large displacement of rural people who are occupying a small land plots in the interior of the country by creating conditions that would compel selling away their land plots and migrating to urban area.

People in Sri Lanka have been resisting these neo liberal economic reforms from the time they were proposed almost two dacades ago. Governments that clearly advocated these reforms have been defeated. For instance the previous UNF Government. The PA Government that tried to introduce the same policies was defeated in 2001. The new Government had rejected these policies to come to power. Now the collaboration that has emerged due to the disaster and the possibilities provided to the big international powers such as the USA to enter forcefully is being used for a purpose totally different from relieving the sufferings of the ordinary poor people such as the fish workers and other rural and urban poor.

On the whole, this “rebuilding” could be a much bigger disaster for the poor and working people in Sri Lanka compared to the Tsunami. We feel there should be a very wide process of understanding these possibilities and responding in solidarity among all progressive international forces.

We MONLAR and ANRHR (Alliance for Protection of National Resources and Human Rights) would closely monitor this process and keep all people’s organizations inside the country and internationally informed, so that an adequate response is built within and outside the country.

We have worked on alternative approaches and policies for reduction of poverty and pro people economic development for more than ten years and these alternatives are still very valid and workable not base on large international capita but on peoples initiative and resources. We appeal to all groups in solidarity with people of Sri Lanka and other people effected in other countries to join in building such a response that could only prevent such a new disaster. We await for your early response.

We have decided to take up this discussion among people’s organisations, intellectuals, pro people scientist and other concerned groups. A meeting of such groups would be held on the 12th January for such groups at 5.00 p.m. The venue would be informed later.

Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)

No: 1151/58A, 4th Lane, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.

Fax: (+94) 11 4407663 Tel: (+94) 11 2865534

Web: www.geocities.com/monlarslk