“The people and the country had to face natural disasters and were tormented when the tsunami occurred in 2004, due to Miriyabadda landslide and now many parts of the country have been destroyed and many people have lost lives and property and have been made destitute. However, the present government just like previous governments, despite stating it was prepared to meet any eventuality, has not been prepared to meet the recent disaster situation the country had to undergo. This is evident in allocating less funds for disaster management for this year,” states the Information Secretary of the JVP Comrade Vijitha Herath at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP at Pelawatta today (24th).
It was also emphasized that the ‘Red Star’ ‘Relief Services Brigade’ of the JVP hoped to engage in a special voluntary campaign on the 26th and the 27th under the theme ‘Humanitarian labour Operation’. He said, they hoped to assemble at Kaduwela Junction and Siyambalape Junction at 9.00 a.m. to commence the operation to clean houses, wells, roads and repair other damaged facilities. They also invite the public to join with water pumps, mammoties, shovels, wheelbarrows, cleaning agents etc. They also invited all other voluntary organizations to mediate immediately to normalize the lives of the affected people.
The Member of the Central Committee Comrade Sunil Watagala and the National Organizer of Socialist Youth Union Comrade Eranga Gunasekera were also present.
Comrade Vijitha Herath said, “An unexpected disaster situation cropped up. several areas were submerged due to floods and rain water. Many voluntary organizations and individuals got involved in providing relief to the affected. Also, Navy, Air force, Army and state institutions took great pains to bring relief to the distressed. The JIP expresses its special thanks to all those who came foreword to help the distressed. Also, a large number of Sri Lankans living abroad came forward to support the affected people. Their mediation to help the victims of adverse weather is commendable.
We, as a country, were tormented due to the tsunami of December, 2004. We have also confronted natural disasters several times such as the landslide at Miriyabadda. After every disaster that occurred then government and the existing government stated that the country has been made ready to confront any such disaster that would occur. However, we didn’t see any readiness of the government to confront the disaster the country was subjected to. It is reported that the special equipment that forecasts weather conditions too has been inactive during the past five years. This indicates that the government did not have any plan to meet such a disaster.
Natural disasters occur instantaneously. As such, the government should be prepared to meet such disasters. As the government was not prepared it could not mediate immediately at the initial stages of the disaster. We, of the JVP emphasized in Parliament that the disaster was of a gigantic proportion and asked the government to declare a state of emergency. Despite the Leader of the House saying it would be considered, no such state of emergency has been declared yet. Initially, state officials had obstacles in mediating in the crisis. The provisions in circulars were only to feed people in camps. The officials could not take decisions to provide food and other essentials to people trapped in other areas. There was no process for state officials to get fuel expenses to use boats to reach victims. As a result of circulars state officials could not take decisions initially. The situation was not simple. Instant operations were necessary. State officials could have acted promptly and efficiently if a state of emergency was declared. However, the government has now declared affected areas as High Security Zones. The government states no reclaiming lands would be allowed. There is politics behind unauthorized constructions and reclaim of lands. The government, if it was so concerned about the environment, shouldn’t have allowed unauthorized construction or filling of lands. We are happy that the government could realize its folly at least after all the happenings.
The funds allocated by the government for disaster management for this year is less than in 2015. The allocation for capital expenditure in 2015 was Rs.2522 million. In 2016 it is Rs.2135 million. The recurrent expenditure for 2015 was Rs.1543 million but in 2016 it was Rs.799 million. This indicates that the government did not have any preparedness to confront a disaster situation. The issues confronted by the people due to the tsunami have not been solved yet. Despite those who lost lands were given lands, they have not been given deeds for such lands. As a result they are inconvenienced when admitting their children to schools as they are unable to produce legal documents to prove their residence. In such an environment the government has slashed funds allocated for disaster management.
The government should see that such a situation would not arise in the future. The Department of Irrigation should have an alternative to control the water levels of all rivers including the Kelani. At the moment the government states a special attention would be turned to ‘megapolis’. However, we emphasize that environmental factor is important in development whether there is a disaster or not.
By now people who were affected have left their houses and are temporarily lodged in camps. Some are with their relatives and many others have nowhere to go. In Aranayaka the houses of the people affected by the landslide have been completely destroyed and they have nowhere to go. It is the same with the affected people at Kalupahana. The government has still not taken a final decision regarding solutions for these people. The government should take a definite decision if they decide to give these people alternative places. The people are awaiting a clear answer. they are unable to take a decision regarding their future.
Many lives and property were lost and when compensating the government should take an impartial decision. We emphasize that a process should not be followed where only those who confirm residency are paid compensation and others are neglected stating theirs were unauthorized constructions. Properties of all those who resided in legal or illegal dwellings have been destroyed. Hence, the government should compensate all those who have been affected due to the disaster. Also, there should be a programme for resettlement. An instant operation is necessary to normalize people’s lives. Instant mediation to clean houses, wells is necessary and health clinics should be held in those areas immediately. A survey should be held regarding school books and uniforms children have lost and a programme carried out to provide them with the necessities. There are individuals and organizations prepared to help in this venture if the government prepares a programme.
The JVP, as a political party, made a special mediation to bring relief to the affected people. Even during the tsunami debacle the ‘Red Star’, the ‘Relief Services Brigade’ of the JVP carried out a giant mediation in saving people, feeding the distressed, treating the injured and the sick by holding health clinics. In this debacle too ‘Red Star’ mediated in relief work, saving lives, bringing food to the affected and holding health clinics. Many members of ‘Red Star’ engaged in relief work risking their own lives and property and while their homes were under water. We continue to engage in relief work. The ‘Red Star’ ‘Relief Services Brigade’ of the JVP hopes to engage in a special voluntary campaign on the 26th and the 27th under the theme ‘Humanitarian labour Operation’. We hope to assemble at Kaduwela Junction and Siyambalape Junction at 9.00 a.m. to commence the operation. We hope to clean houses, wells, roads and repair other damaged facilities. We invite the public to join us with water pumps, mammoties, shovels, wheelbarrows, cleaning agents etc. We know that two days would not be sufficient to unravel the destruction caused by the calamity. hence, we invite all other voluntary organizations to mediate immediately to normalize the lives of the affected people. Meanwhile, the government should make an immediate survey of the disaster and prepare a programme to provide necessary equipment for the affected people. We also call upon all citizens of the country to contribute to help the affected.”