TAFREN CHAIRMAN TITTAWELLA SAYS POST-TSUNAMI
ACTION PLAN WILL SERVE AS A CATALYST IN MOVING
THE PEACE PROCESS FORWARD
Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka
and Chairman of the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN),
Mano Tittawella has said it is the Sri Lanka Government's expectation,
that “the successful completion of the Post-Tsunami Action
Plan would not only restore infrastructure and livelihoods to
the affected people, but would also serve as a catalyst in moving
the peace process forward”.
TAFREN Chairman Mano Tittawella addressing the meeting
Mr. Tittawella made this observation when he
addressed the Private Sector Summit on Post-Tsunami Reconstruction
and Rehabilitation, held Thursday May 12, 2005 in Washington,
D.C. The Summit focused on the role of the U.S. private sector
in post-tsunami assistance and provided a forum for representatives
of the affected countries to meet with corporate representatives
and Non-Governmental Organizations to seek solutions and resources
for the next phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Attended
by over three hundred participants from the corporate and NGO
sectors including academia, this event was sponsored by the Coca
Cola Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Pfizer Inc. and Evergreen
International Aviation Inc. of the US.
Mr. Tittawella noted that “Sri Lanka was
overwhelmed by the generosity demonstrated by the international
community and particularly encouraged by the tremendous response
of U.S. corporations and foundations, which was in the highest
tradition of corporate social responsibility. He said “
the Government of Sri Lanka together with the donor community
had developed a comprehensive post-tsunami reconstruction plan
for Sri Lanka on a sectoral basis, that covers all the affected
districts in the North, East and South of Sri Lanka. Over 80%
of the resources needed had already been pledged and in most cases
MOUs have also been signed”. Mr. Tittawella hoped that “the
partnership established with corporate America would ensure the
successful completion of this massive undertaking”.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton,
the Co-Chairs of U.S. Private Sector Tsunami Relief, who delivered
the keynote addresses at the Summit, recalled their visit to the
region earlier this year and said that the response of all Americans
in this hour of crisis showed “America at its best”.
President Clinton, who also serves as the UN Secretary General’s
Special Envoy for the countries affected by the tsunami, impressed
on the need for the corporate sector and INGOs to move fast and
ensure that their funds are put to use now, rather than later,
as the need for such funds will be felt most acutely over the
next six months, until the affected countries completed negotiations
with bi-lateral donors and international organizations on the
more long term projects.
President George H. W. Bush addresses the meeting, while President
Bill Clinton and
Chairman Asia Society Ambassador Richard C. Holebrooke looks on.
A special session of this meeting chaired by
Ashley Wills, US Assistant Trade Representative and former US
Ambassador to Sri Lanka was devoted to Sri Lanka, where the specificities
concerning post-tsunami relief in the island was discussed. Opening
the discussion, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US Bernard
A.B. Goonetilleke said that given the magnitude of the task before
Sri Lanka, the government had decided to allow the private sector
as well as local and international NGOs to undertake all the work
that can be done by them and to be partners in the medium and
long term rehabilitation and reconstruction strategy of Sri Lanka.
Ambassador Goonetilleke emphasized that the development needs
of the country do not stop where the tsunami waves stopped and
that Sri Lanka did not wish to create imbalances between the tsunami
affected areas and those adjacent to such areas. He pointed out
that although most of the specific projects had already been taken
up, donors from the private sector and INGOs, who might be interested
in contributing immediately to a project should do so, as resources
that have been ear marked for projects to be funded by institutions
such as the World Bank, IMF, ADB, JAIC etc., could be re-allocated
in consultation with those institutions, to be utilized for other
projects within or beyond the tsunami affected areas.
Mr. Rohan Edirisinghe, who addressed the session
representing civil society groups of Sri Lanka, emphasized the
need to ensure that post-tsunami work was carried out giving due
consideration to issues of governance. He urged greater involvement
of those affected in the decision making process and the need
to avoid political patronage. Mr. Edirisinghe, who cautioned that
evangelical groups, who had got involved in post-tsunami work
in Sri Lanka, were seen to be aggressively seeking to promote
the spread of their faith “holding aid in one hand and the
Bible in the other”, said it had resulted in an increase
in social tensions in some areas. He urged that foreign governments
prevail on such groups to act with restraint. He also expressed
concern over the hostile attitude that was being taken against
NGOs in Sri Lanka, particularly against those that were supportive
of the peace process.
Ms. Jeanne Samuel, President of the Rotary Club,
North Chapter said, much had to be done to heal the wounds of
those, who lost their loved ones or were affected by the tsunami.
She noted that half of those displaced continue to remain in camps
and that urgent measures had to be taken to redress their plight.
Ms. Samuel also emphasized the need to ensure better accountability
of funds and that zero tolerance be excercised over corruption.
Among the other issues raised during the discussion
was the implementation of the buffer zone concept, delays in clearing
relief supplies from the port, the tax imposed on funds received
by NGOs as tsunami relief, the inequities that might result following
development of tsunami affected areas and other areas as well
as the opposition by some political parties to the Joint Mechanism
for distribution of tsunami relief.
TAFREN Chairman Mano Tittawella responding said,
while the government had decided to impose a buffer zone as a
general principle, in situations where it was not practical, the
Government was considering other criteria that could be applied
for land use. He noted that the tax imposed on NGOs was a fiscal
measure introduced in the last budget prior to the tsunami. While
there was a need to check what was coming into the country, there
is a clear criteria according to which NGOs engaged in relief
work could be exempted on a case by case basis. The government
was mindful of the social inequities that could result in the
course of the implementation of the Action Plan and had set out
a number of guiding principles that would inform the tsunami reconstruction
programme. Mr. Tittawella said the President was firmly committed
to the implementation of the Joint Mechanism and that the reconstruction
process following this massive tragedy should not be treated as
a partisan issue. He emphasized that as with the provision of
immediate relief in the aftermath of the tsunami, reconstruction
work could also be undertaken even without a joint mechanism.
However, setting up of such a mechanism would be beneficial as
it would also help in building bridges between the parties that
have been in conflict with each other.
The private sector summit on post-tsunami rehabilitation
and reconstruction was organized by Asia Society, The Asia Foundation,
the United States-ASEAN Business Council and the United States
Chamber of Commerce.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
12 May 2005