President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on Thursday (22 September) urged the international community and the UN to continue to keep the focus on the reconstruction and recovery effort in the tsunami affected countries and to ensure that pledges made are fulfilled. The President noted that NGOs that came in large numbers to the tsunami affected countries received vast amounts of funds for reconstruction from concerned citizens throughout the world. However, she regretted that the procurement procedures in place among some of the donor agencies and NGOs were delaying the reconstruction process, while others are yet to channel funds to Sri Lanka. She appealed to these organizations to complete the projects they have undertaken without further delay as the people of Sri Lanka were questioning what had happened to the contributions made by the the caring people of the world, who channeled large quantities of money to help the tsunami victims.

President Kumaratunga made these observations when she addressed a meeting of the Global Consortium on Tsunami Recovery, chaired by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery former President Bill Clinton, and held at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Among the participants at this meeting were World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, heads of UN agencies, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), members of the NGO community, and delegations from the affected countries and donor countries.

Earlier in her statement the President expressed appreciation for the generosity of Governments, international agencies, NGOs and citizens of all countries, who came to Sri Lanka’s assistance following the December 26 tsunami, and described it as a “magnificent demonstration of human solidarity.” She particularly thanked President Clinton for the interest taken in Sri Lanka’s recovery process and said “Sri Lanka will do our maximum to utilize your support (President Clinton’s) effectively and productively.”

The President noted that Sri Lanka’s reconstruction work required over US$2 billion and involved the entire spectrum of infrastructure development- education, health service, roads, railways, bridges, sewage systems, water & sanitation projects etc. A bulk of the resources for this effort is derived from foreign aid and most of it is grant money. Government was only playing a supervisory role and it was the donor agencies that coordinate the entire process of project management until completion. She noted that all tsunami destroyed houses will be built on State owned land or on land bought by the Government for the tsunami affected households. The Government plans to gift land and houses to the beneficiaries after they settle in. With regard to housing, nearly 70% of house construction had begun. Half of this number were built by the owners themselves, with the help of grants provided by the Government. A large number of owner built houses are under construction. She added that most issues concerning the buffer zone have been resolved. 60% of the houses that were within the buffer zone are being built elsewhere, with full agreement from the beneficiaries.

Discussing the opportunity for working together in the post-tsunami recovery had on nation building, President Kumaratunga said “the mighty forces of nature have humbled us all” and “caused a new realization of the realities facing us and has persuaded us to try to participate in a united manner towards rethinking our problems and seeking to resolve them”. She said she is happy that the long standing problem in Banda Aceh is resolved and that agreements have been signed. The LTTE too had shown a willingness to work with the Government with regard to tsunami reconstruction within the framework of the ceasefire agreement. Referring to the P-TOMS Agreement with the LTTE, she said it received minimum opposition from some extremist parties. Regretting that this process had however been stalled due to a court order, she feared that “Sri Lanka may lose the momentum, when we had the best opportunity of moving forward towards reconciliation.”

In comments at the commencement of the meeting, President Clinton said the Tsunami had provided affected governments with the chance to “build back better”, and through the Global Consortium, many donors have agreed to define broadly the category of eligible beneficiaries, so that assistance to the affected populations does not exacerbate inequalities.

President Clinton emphasized that such a broader vision of recovery in Sri Lanka and Aceh must take account of the needs of persons displaced by the conflict. Referring to the P-TOMS Agreement President Clinton said he “appreciated” President Kumaratunga’s “courageous attempt to work through this process.” He noted that while much of the attention of the world is focused elsewhere, the affected Asian governments are really only beginning a long and complex reconstruction process and said, “We will continue to stand by them. We must tackle the tough issues with the same determination and drive that characterized the immediate aftermath to the crisis”. President Clinton said the Global Consortium endorsed a range of measures to sustain momentum in the longer term recovery effort including an international effort to assist national governments in promoting livelihoods through entrepreneurship, skills training and promoting local government capacity, as well as in encouraging a broader vision of recovery.

Mano Tittawella, Chairman TAFREN, who presented an overview of the activities undertaken in Sri Lanka said, the reconstruction effort was being carried out with wide consultation at all levels with donors as well as all tsunami affected communities. The government was acutely aware of the macro economic imbalances that can occur in the areas of inflation and unemployment, and was sensitive to gender and equity issues that could result in the present phase of reconstruction. TAFREN had also launched a web based DAD system with the assistance of the UNDP, where over 1.3 billion US $ worth of donor funded tsunami projects listed. This was not only intended to ensure transparency, but is also a means of ensuring benefactors the world over that the assistance they gave Sri Lanka was being spent effectively. Mr. Tittawella said Sri Lanka remained frustrated that the proposed Regional Early Warning System that was mooted many months ago, is still not a reality.

Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S., Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, TAFREN Chairman Mano Tittawella and TAFREN CEO Rohini Nanayakkara were associated with the President at the meeting. The World Bank’s Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Peter Harold also attended the session.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

23 Septmeber 2005


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