Written by Lahiru Fernando
07 Jun, 2017 | 10:13 am
A few weeks ago, Sri Lanka experienced continuous torrential rain accompanied by gale winds owing to the southwest monsoon. The adverse weather caused landslides and flooded most areas in Ratnapura, Kalutara, Matara and Galle.
Over 200 people died, hundreds left injured and over half a million people (approximately 700,000) were affected and displaced.
Then, the most “Sri Lankan thing” happened. Organisations and institutes, with influence, organised aid collection points. We at News 1st launched our own Sahana Yathra initiative, as we did during every other time of need. And almost immediately, people from all around the country, setting aside all cast and creed, rallied around those affected, as one.
In our own experience, while collecting aid for Sahana Yathra, there were people who brought in vehicles, and at times trucks, full of aid. But most importantly, there were those who struggled to make ends meet bringing in whatever they could.
There was an old lady who donated one milk packet, feeling upset that she could not do more but just wanted to help someone in anyway she could.
In another instance, we received a letter by post. The letter read “this is all I can afford, I hope it can make someone smile.” and attached with the letter was a 500 rupee note.
Some organisations left the relief packages at District Secretariats with trust, hoping that they would distribute as it should be.
But sadly, reports have come in of an incident where aid parcels have been re-packaged with name tags of different individuals and institutes.
Our cameras captured how relief goods at the Galle District Secretariat were being packed into packaging of Ministry of Home Affairs. But the aid in question have been given to the GDS by the North Central Provincial Council.
So we decided to inquire the Galle District Secretary over the matter.
He said “We are adhering to a system where all the aid that is provided to the Galle District by various organisation, will be assorted into a uniform packaging. They will then be distributed among the families.” The uniform packaging he speaks of, is from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Secretary, S.T. Kodikara say the identity of the original donors “will not be affected in any way”. However, he said he received reports of name tags in original packing being removed. “These are acts to disrupt this programme. There is an internal investigation..” he added.
The Minister of Home Affairs is Vajira Abeywardhena and Galle is his electorate.
However, Abeywardhena also is someone who has been accused of similar actions in the past.
One such accusation is a letter written by Vajira Abeywardhena to R. Paskaralingam (an adviser to the PM), asking that the funds allocated for government contracts be paid to a businessman.
Abeywardhena denied the existence of such a letter at first. But eventually admitted to sending it.
Coming forward to protect the accused in the Avant Garde incident is another accusation against Minister Abeywardhena.
Then he was criticised for appointing Anusha Palpita as the additional secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Anusha Palpita had indictments filed against him in connection to the controversial Sil Cloth deal.
The Leader of the Janasetha Peramuna has slammed the act saying it is “disgraceful” – that aid which were meant for the innocent people affected by floods and landslides – being “robbed by officials.”
“This disaster may be a sorrowful loss to the innocent people but to the rulers of this country, the ministers, the MPs who are working regarding these matters, the secretaries and the Personal Assistants, this is beneficial..” said Battaramulle Seelarathana Thero, Leader, Janasetha Peramuna.
Namal Karunaratne of the JVP said it is disappointing if politicians are distributing aid targeting the elections.
“The Sirasa Media network was the first media institution to commence an operation like this. They introduced this to other media as well. The politicians have not been able to protect their morality. They are distributing the goods of other people as if it is their own”, he added.
16 May, 2021 | 01:38 AM
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