he day after Christmas, December 26 is unfortunately remembered most by Sri Lanka for one of the worst ever natural catastrophes, the Tsunami, which occurred on December 26, 2004. Though some tend to misrepresent this calamity as some form of retribution, scientific analysts believe that the main causes are linked to the pollution of the sea, the air and the earth. The World Wildlife Fund recently reported that up to 50 percent of the fish and other marine species had been destroyed by a greedy and wicked world.
If we do not stop this and stop dumping tonnes of plastic and polythene into the sea, we may not see the sea or what happens as a result. Fortunately almost all countries have come back to their senses and are acting with sensitivity towards the environment as seen in the historic December 12 Paris Agreement, where all nations decided to take measures to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius or if possible 1.5 and substantially reduce carbon emission by developing sources of renewable energy.
As we recall Sri Lanka’s Tsunami, which was caused by a huge Indian Ocean earthquake off the western coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the toll would still stagger us. According to official figures, there were 30,196 confirmed deaths. Many of the dead were adults and the elderly with the south and east coasts being the worst hit. As many as 1.5 million people were displaced.
Eleven years later, the focus today needs to be on how we could prevent the recurrence of such a calamity, what has been done or not done for the rehabilitation and restoration of the livelihood of those who suffered.
"Eleven years later, the focus today needs to be on how we could prevent the recurrence of such a calamity, what has been done or not done for the rehabilitation and restoration of the livelihood of those who suffered."
The then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge was not in Sri Lanka, when the Tsunami virtually swallowed our country. So, the main role in the rescue and relief operations was played by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
After Mr. Rajapaksa became the Executive President in November 2005 there were various allegations of corruption, including what was described as ‘Helping Hambantota’, Mr. Rajapaksa’s home base. This led to a controversial decision by the then Chief Justice for which he later expressed regret.
Most analysts also believe that Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunge was killed allegedly because of the corruption he exposed in the Tsunami relief and rehabilitation operations.
Even today, one of the main corruption allegation issues being probed, is that the Tsunami Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) misused and abused hundreds of millions of dollars received as grants from the international community.
It is alleged that about Rs. 800 million had been given to the LTTE before the November 2005 Presidential Election to prevent the North Eastern people from voting. The LTTE imposed a ban on voting and as a result at least 700,000 people were prevented from going to the polls.
Analysts point out that Mr. Rajapaksa won the 2005 Presidential Election against the then Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe by about 150,000 votes and the LTTE ban did have an impact on the result. It is alleged that the money given to the LTTE came from funds allocated for the building of 1,200 houses in the North and the East. Not a single house was built.
However, housing schemes were started for Tsunami victims in Galle, Moratuwa, Lunawa, Ratmalana and other areas but the Daily Mirror Investigation today shows that some of them has not been given proper title deeds.
We hope the new national government, instead of merely holding ceremonies to mark this tragedy, will commit itself to bring about justice, for the Tsunami victims. While doing that, we need to listen to the ocean; echoes of a million sea shells; forever it’s in motion; moving to a rhythmic unwritten music that’s played eternally.