“It should be said that disaster management institutions of the government are listless. There is no administrative leadership. Despite officials work hard, no proper management could be seen in these institutions. They are at a very run down stage. People are severely distressed. Now, it is necessary to go beyond providing emergency relief services and plan to prevent disasters occurring in the future. The President has appointed disaster agents for districts. We have a doubt where some of the ministers were appointed to create disasters rather than prevent them. The minister who mediated in Kegalle District has said after the meeting the reserve of 1500 acres that was spared should be distributed among farmers to cultivate minor export crops. As such, these politicians cannot prevent disasters. The government, despite talking about protecting environment, attempts to clear a large number of acres in Bibile to plant sugarcane. It avoids talking about the destruction of Uma Oya. When it comes to these projects the government forgets environmental destruction,” says the Member of the Political Bureau of the JVP Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka MP.
He said this at a press conference held at the head office of the JVP at today (4th). The Member of the Political Bureau of the JVP Comrade Sunil Handunneththi too participated.
Speaking further Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka said, “Eight days have gone by since the flood debacle. The situation confronted by the masses in areas that were flooded and landslides occurred is very pathetic. Destruction in certain areas in Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Rathnapura districts are so severe that they cannot be brought to a normal state even if relief groups work for several more weeks say relief groups and officials. The situation has become worsened due to political pageants of the government that has no plans for rescue work.
The main reason for landslides and flooding is the destruction of central hills. Imperialists had their plantations in hill areas above 3000 to 5000 feet above sea level. The development process in our country was carried out for more than 2000 years protecting the central hills. As springs are the sources of rivers they were protected. The river was dammed, a tank built and cultivations were carried out in the plains. However, white imperialists deforested mountain regions and planted tea. They named plains as reserves. They did not conserve the areas that should have been conserved. This destruction began after 1815. This destruction cannot be reversed instantly. The rulers who came after the imperialists continued the destruction stared by imperialists. They continued to destroy the hills. Companies destroyed the environment to boost their profits. Even the government going behind companies destroyed the environment. People too in various ways contributed to this destruction. However, the destruction by the government and the companies is larger than the destruction the people could commit. This is why a disaster situation has occurred at present. Water doesn’t easily flow out to the sea from the rivers. The water that spills onto the plains doesn’t subside due to the improper ‘development’ of the rulers. However, there are several measures a government could take to prevent disasters. This is why a ministry of disaster management exists.
Harm to the country and the people from disasters have escalated. Our country was confronted with disasters due to floods in 1956, 1969, 2003, 2005, 2016 and in 2017. However, during the past 1 ½ to 2 decades the disaster situation has escalated. Environmental destruction, irregular development and inability to prevent disasters have aggravated the situation. One of the main reasons is inability to predict correctly. A newspaper had reported that the south west monsoon had taken 91 lives. It is not correct. We all know south west monsoon brings rain. By making correct predictions people could be evacuated from the dangerous zones. Now predicting weather conditions have come down to the level of soothsaying. Predictions could be made using technology. However, a fraud has been committed regarding the Doppler radar that was bought by the country. With this machine the exact rainfall for various areas could have been predicted. However, predicting in our country is at a very low level. It is reported that 212 people have lost their lives and more than 90 have disappeared. Property worth billions has been destroyed. As such, the government should be held responsible for the weakness in predicting.
Also, the government should have a plant to provide disaster relief. Parliamentarians and members of our party not only did relief work with the ‘Red Star’ Relief Service Brigade of the JVP but several MPs also participated in administrative meetings of the government. What we came to know at these meetings is that the government did have neither a long term national plan nor an emergency plan to confront a disaster. Many beautiful plans had been presented also at meetings the President participated. However, the information in such plans was archaic. They had not been updated. There were no plans to prevent disasters. When we were children May and June were ‘Wesak and Poson’ months. Now they have become ‘disaster months. We all know May and June receive a lot of rain. However, the government does not have a plan to prevent disasters that would occur during these months.
It should be said that disaster management institutions of the government are listless. There is no administrative leadership. Despite officials work hard, no proper management could be seen in these institutions. They are at a very run down stage. People are severely distressed. Now, it is necessary to go beyond providing emergency relief services and plan to prevent disasters occurring in the future. The President has appointed disaster agents for districts. We have a doubt where some of the ministers were appointed to create disasters rather than prevent them. The minister who mediated in Kegalle District has said after the meeting the reserve of 1500 acres that was spared should be distributed among farmers to cultivate minor export crops. As such, these politicians cannot prevent disasters. The government, despite talking about protecting environment, attempts to clear a large number of acres in Bibile to plant sugarcane. It avoids talking about the destruction of Uma Oya. When it comes to these projects the government forgets environmental destruction.
Also, it should be mentioned about the reinsurance programme of the government. Due to this reinsurance programs the government should get about Rs. 10,000 million. The government pays only Rs.100,000 when a life is lost. However, according to budget proposals Rs.2.5 million should be paid. As such, we remind the government to pay this amount immediately. Also, there are houses and properties worth more than Rs.2.5 million that have been destroyed. We ask the government to pay a justifiable compensation for the people.
People who were brought down to the bottom have been pushed to the bottom again. The government should mediate immediately to bring their lives to normalcy soon. People do not get a just compensation from certain insurance companies. Hence, the insurance benefit the government should be given to the people.
Also, a national institute should be established and it should be given powers to take action in a disaster. Countries like Japan, the USA, Italy and India have prevented or minimized disasters by establishing such institutes and long term programmes.”
Comrade Sunil Handuneththi addressing the press conference said, “The ‘Red Star’ Relief Service Brigade of the JVP mediated during the floods in 2003 and after the tsunami debacle in 2004. It is with this practical experience we mediated in disaster relief work this time. There are about 3000 that can be mobilized for ‘Red Star’ relief services. If the state machinery had been strong in relief work the delay could have been avoided. As the state participation was minimum there were obstacles to the restoration work at the initial stages. The ‘Red Star’ Relief Service Brigade of the JVP mediated as a separate unit detached from the programmes of the government. However, we mediated initially to save those who were distressed. We gave them food. It should be mentioned that the three services did a massive service. They gave their full support to save people. We were able to go to very difficult areas due to the support of the three services. The ‘Red Star’ Relief Service Brigade was able to feed people who had been starving for two whole days. What District Secretariats and Divisional Secretariats did was to provide food for those who came to them. But it was necessary to feed people who were marooned.
The government also failed to carry out second stage restoration work once the water subsided. The main issue was providing drinking water and cleaning wells. There were no water pumps or generators in Divisional Secretariats. The government only distributed goods received from private media institutions and supporters. Certain politicians of the government distributed goods received from the people under their labels. One responsible minister came down to the low level of distribution packs of five plantains with a label carrying his name. Governemnt’s relief work was limited to distributing goods. However, ‘Red Star’ and other voluntary organizations are still cleaning wells, houses, business places and compounds. Those who were battered by the disaster are not in a position to do the restoration by themselves. As such, they should be assisted. Hiniduma, Mapalagama and certain places in Rathnapura were completely submerged in water. The business places in these towns cannot be opened until they are completely restored. Also, voluntary work is necessary to bring back pre-schools, schools, hospitals to normalcy. Books and equipments in certain schools in Kalutara, Galle, Matara have been completely destroyed. ‘Red Star’ Relief Services Brigade was able to restore 7 of the 16 schools that were harmed in Galle. However, they need the government to get involved in work that goes beyond voluntary work. Ayagama town in Rathnapura was completely destroyed. The hospital and the police do not exist anymore. Hence, a state machinery is necessary to restore them. However, we do not see such a plan.
The mediation of government politicians has terminated after distributing goods. Certain politicians distribute goods only to their party men. We could say with responsibility that the ‘Red Star’ Relief Services Brigade has not worked with partiality. Now a mediation to hold medical clinics is necessary.
Many have contributed on behalf of those who were distressed due to the calamity. Also, Sri Lankans employed abroad, ‘Ethera Api’ organization have collected goods and money to contribute. We are thankful to them. The next stage would be to prevent such a calamity happening again. A firm step should be taken to avoid such a calamity.
Also, tea industry has been broken down in districts harmed by floods and landslides. Paddy fields have been damaged. Water ways have been destroyed. There is no plan to compensate farmers who have lost their crops and other belongings. The government insurance scheme compensates only loss of life and damage to houses. How the damage is estimated is not clear. Plans should be drawn up to compensate those who lost their cultivations. If not a community of agitators would be crated like at Samasara, Moothotumulla and Salava. The government should stop people taking to the streets instead of saying agitations are wrong. We say people should be compensated without any difference. We ask the government not to underestimate the situation.
Also, religious leaders mediated in a big way to minimize the suffering of the people. Certain groups attempted to rouse communalism and religious extremism recently. However, temples, churches and mosques united to carry out relief work. There was religious consensus. As such, people have practically proved that they are willing to unite. They why can’t the government do so? Certain officials have told us that due to strict decisions of the government they are unable to mediate. Hence, the government should get the officials and people to participate in restoration work.”