70pc victims without aid: Official

Agence France Presse

Colombo, February 2:

At least 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s tsunami-affected people have yet to receive any relief five weeks after the disaster despite an avalanche of foreign aid, the top aid distributor said today.

Tilak Ranavirajah, the head of the presidential task force to coordinate relief, said he was appalled that only 30 per cent of the 960,000 people affected by the December 26 tsunami had received state help.

“As of Monday, only 30 per cent of the affected people had received aid,” Ranavirajah said. “This is not satisfactory. The president directed me to see that all families, or

at least 70 to 75 per cent of them, get relief by this weekend.” The reference to state aid includes assistance which Sri Lanka received from other governments or major foreign organisations. His figures exclude the island’s embattled northern and eastern regions where Tamil Tiger rebels are in control and handle the relief operations.

Ranavirajah told reporters that bureaucratic bungling and ignorance on the part of tsunami survivors had slowed aid delivery in rural areas along the coastline.

He said the government estimated that it will cost Rs 10 billion ($103 million) to provide compensation to the families of those who died in the tsunamis as well as food for survivors for the next six months. “I don’t know from where the treasury will find the money, but my problem is that our public servants have failed to deliver what the government wants given to those in need,” Ranavirajah said.

He said he ordered all state employees involved in the relief operation to work this long weekend, despite Friday being the Independence anniversary day. He said he could not rule out corruption but promised action against anyone found guilty.

“We are dealing with Rs 10 billion and naturally all people will not be honest,” Ranavirajah said. “There will be a certain amount of corruption, I am not trying to whitewash anyone.”

He said the government will also go ahead with marking a 100 metre stretch of coastline to be preserved as a “green belt” where no construction will be allowed.