21 June, 2024


Tsunami Aid-Racism Even In Human Misery

By Latheef Farook

Latheef Farook

It is sixteen years today since devastating Tsunami struck mainly the east coast of the island on December 26, 2004 and snatched way almost one percent of the Muslim population there.

Saudi Arabia built 500 houses to Muslim families affected by Tsunami. Houses were ready for occupation. Sinhala extremists, led by Buddhist monks, opposed giving the houses only to Muslims. Thus the houses were not given. Today they are covered with thick jungle where snakes, reptiles and other wild animals live.

In the same way billions of foreign aid poured into the country for Tsunami affected people. However many complaint that they got nothing and did not know where the money disappeared.

Muslim tsunami victims were discriminated and discarded even in human misery.

For example the ferocious and frenzied Tsunami waves snatched away hundreds of thousands of lives, dismembered thousands of families, wiped out communities, razed buildings, swallowed villages and cities and left behind an unprecedented trail of destruction, never heard of in the country’s history.

Muslims were the worst affected and number of villages in the east were flattened. During the first few post-tsunami days, there was an unparalleled outpouring of support and sympathy for the victims. Spontaneous goodwill poured forth overwhelmingly when people from all communities and from all walks of life rushed to help the victims.

In Colombo, many left everything and rushed with whatever food, water and clothes they could gather to help the victims everywhere. It was highly commendable that in doing so they rose above race, religion, ethnicity and other considerations.

Individuals who emptied their pockets and the civil organizations that rushed to the scene of disaster with whatever possible aid also restored the fading faith in humanity. They demonstrated that compassion and human kindness still remain alive among the average people though politicians play politics and divide the communities. Though the tsunami brought together the warring and divided communities, yet it was a short-lived dream as conflict broke out within a year. According to early estimates, the total value of the damage stood at US$1.5 billion. According to reports billions of dollars poured into the country in the form of aid to the unfortunate tsunami victims.

Many who were awaiting aid said that they didn’t get any aid and they did not know where the aid money went, but they were living in single room wooden houses. According to one report, money was feverishly transferred not only to government establishments, but also to accounts of individuals, companies and charity organizations.

Sri Lanka’s deputy executive director of the anti-graft organization Rukshana Nanayakkara said: “It was almost impossible to find out what happened to the cash. According to an initial government audit only 13 percent of the aid was spent during the first year of reconstruction, but since then there has been no formal examination of accounts.”

Hundreds of tsunami survivors complained to the graft buster against local and international aid agencies. He added that, “there has been no proper accounts maintained on the aid money and we believe that only a fraction of the aid trickled down to the real victims”.

While tsunami victims were languishing in appalling conditions in inhospitable temporary shelters, there began to emerge report after report of corruption highlighting to what extent human beings could descend to in exploiting even human misery and sufferings for their own benefit.

According to a report by the then Auditor-General, S.C. Mayadunne, “government officials misspent or misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tsunami aid after failing to follow instructions. Officials gave millions of rupees in tsunami assistance to thousands of families who were not directly affected while others displaced by the tsunami did not even get the rations they were entitled to”.

Some other reports pointed out that Sri Lanka received 3.2 billion dollars in foreign aid pledges. In the absence of proper account-keeping, many believe that only a fraction of the aid actually went to the real victims and it was impossible to track down what happened to the cash. Official figures are often contradictory, but even the state admits only about half of the estimated 100,000 damaged or destroyed homes have been rebuilt as the country marked the tragedy’s second anniversary.

Under the headline “Merry times for tsunami racketeers” this is what a report by Shamindra Ferdinando in the Island of 26 December 2006 said, “Even years after the tsunami, the government is yet to punish State officials accountable for waste, corruption and negligence in the aftermath of the unprecedented natural disaster.

“Inquiries reveal that the government has failed to initiate action against them despite clear evidence of wasteful expenditure on a large scale. Politicians have connived with officials to help their supporters play out funds and in some cases, further the interests of their associates. They have profited from crooked deals involving crooked means, hiring of vehicles and compensation for damaged and destroyed houses.

Summing up the situation, a compassionate Sinhalese had this to state in his column in a local daily: “It is true that we did rise to the occasion, but sadly it is also true that we folded up even faster than it took us to stand tall. This is why at 9.30 a.m. on December 26, if we mourn anything, we should mourn the tragic fact that we could not respond adequately as citizens, as fellow human beings. Perhaps we should all go to the beach, if not to show gratitude, to lament. Let us, when we do this, or whatever else we find ourselves doing at that most inauspicious time, reflect on the fact that in this Buddhist country there is a thing called karma pala, that while some things are bad, among the worst is the intent to prey on misery, and that such transgressions have a way of constructing appropriate punishments.

“I suggest, humbly, that we recognize in our blood streams, in our heartbeats and our sinews the sad truth that we have failed and hope that this recognition generates in all of us the first seeds of resolve that allows us to do better. Let us resolve to rectify our errors and truly emerge as a people worthy of a nation, simply by developing the faculty of sympathy and gathering the strength to move forward, not alone but with each and every one left behind by the tsunami waves.”

During tsunami disaster then President Kumaratunga, who was in London, rushed home and assured that their houses would be rebuilt within six months. But these promises disappeared in the same way of the tsunami waves, despite billions of rupees given to help tsunami victims.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government initiated a move to sign a joint mechanism with the LTTE. But the Muslim tsunami victims were not only kept in the dark but were also ignored by the agreement to please the LTTE which opposed Muslim participation.

In negotiating and signing what later came to be described as Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS), the President Chandrika Kumaratunga, did exactly what Ranil Wickremesinghe did when he signed the Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE On February 2002, despite all assurances Muslim interests were dismissed when the CFA was signed

In her desire to seal an agreement at any cost President Kumaratunga ignored the Muslims. The so-called peace broker, Norway was active partner in this conspiracy against the Muslim tsunami victims.

Columnist Sassanka Samarakkody said, “The main priority of our opportunistic political leaders is certainly not the wellbeing of the people or the territorial integrity of the country, but to cling on to power or grab power at any cost. And as recent history has demonstrated, they will not hesitate to enter into a pact even with the devil to enjoy power. And the LTTE knows this weakness of our southern leadership very well, and must be enjoying every bit of the present drama over the P-TOMS. Because they know, ultimately, whatever the outcome, the Tiger terrorists (NOT the long-suffering Tamil people) will be the ultimate winners, as usual”.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    All other aid international and overseas donated by foreign governments, foreign individuals, institutions, Sri Lankan expatriates Chingkallam and Thamizh, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other organizations were distributed and given to all affected people. Irrespective of ethnicity or religion. Why is this aid from Saudi only provided exclusively for the Muslims of the east and nothing to the Thamizh in the east who were also equally affected or affected in far greater numbers? It is a well-known fact that Muslims politicians and organizations have been using large amounts of aid from Saudi, other Arabian Gulf, and Islamic states, only for the betterment of the Muslims in the east and also as a tool and funds to use to marginalize the numerically larger indigenous Thamizh Hindu/Christians and the Thamilized Hindu Vehha of the east. Eg of land appropriation, Arabization, building Wahabbi institutions/mosques. We all know about the Gulf-funded eastern Islamic University that was built on land appropriated from a Thamizh Hindu village in Batticaloa, that would have materialized to further Islamize the ancient Thamizh Hindu east, if not for the Easter Bombing.

    • 4

      It is a well-known fact that Muslims politicians and organizations have been using large amounts of aid from Saudi, other Arabian Gulf, and Islamic states, only for the betterment of the Muslims in the east and also as a tool and funds to use to marginalize the numerically larger indigenous Thamizh Hindu/Christians and the Thamilized Hindu Vehha of the east. Eg of land appropriation, Arabization, building Wahabbi institutions/mosques. We all know about the Gulf-funded eastern Islamic University that was built on land appropriated from a Thamizh Hindu village in Batticaloa, that would have materialized to further Islamize the ancient Thamizh Hindu east, if not for the Easter Bombing.

      • 6

        It is true that the Muslims were and are discriminated against. The don’t ask for pensionable government jobs. Those are reserved for you-know-who.
        But the Muslim capacity for forgiveness is amazing. How else can one explain the fact that this government got its most repressive legislation passed with the help of Muslim MP’s, and with a Muslim Minister of Justice?
        I am so impressed. Mr. Farook should analyse this in a future article.

      • 0

        Pandi Kutti,
        “….marginalize the numerically larger indigenous Thamizh Hindu/Christians and the Thamilized Hindu Vehha of the east.”
        According to Cambridge English Dictionary the word ‘Indigenous’ is used to ‘refer to, or relating to, the people who originally lived in a place, rather than people who moved there from somewhere else.’

        • 2

          Mahindapala, result of DNA study on Sinhalese done by Colombo science faculty released recently corroborates with previous two where it shows that core genetic material of Sinhalese is Dravidian. So Sinhalese are also foreigners. Veddhas are genetically different from Sinhalese, though some Veddhas have mingled with Sinhalese and contributed to 9% of genetic pool of Sinhalese. This is why your hero the intellectual fraud Raj Somadeva who embarked with support of government and Sinhala businessmen, to prove that Sinhalese descended from Veddhas miserably failed and has abandoned that program. Owners of eastern province are Veddhas, where those along coast from Mutur to Kumana have become Tamils and those in interior areas in AGA divisions of Padiyatalawa, Mahaoya, Inginiyagala, Ampara and Lahugala have become Sinhalese. Veddhas originally lived in caves around central areas and moved out to the plains in the south and east when they started planting cereals and nuts. Please allow Tamils to prove that they are the first inhabitants of rest of the island.

  • 5

    Mr. Farook, the Sri Lankan Muslims are also Tamil by ethnicity, especially the ones from the North East and North West coast will be 100% Tamil. Tamils in the east and north and Sinhalese living down south and the southwest coast were also affected very badly. Not just the Muslims. All other international and local aid, irrespective of who provided it. Western, Sri Lankan. Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim of anyone else was distributed and provided to all affected people, be they Sinhalese. Tamils or Muslims. Why was this Saudi and or other Gulf state aid only for the Muslims and not for the others? Why were the other affected people were not humans? Why is always aid from these Gulf and other Islamic states constantly being used only for the exclusive benefit of the Muslims only and not for the larger Tamil population, who have

    • 3

      lived there for thousands of years and are the real owners of the east. Al lother aid is not. The Tamils of the east are now getting increasingly marginalized in their own land, by an immigrant refugee population, that only arrived a few centuries ago there. Aid from certain nations, directly provided to this population is being used as a tool to marginalize the eastern Tamils. The government also gives them a stepmotherly treatment.

  • 4

    Latheef Farook,
    It is sad that you bring racism at this juncture to divide Tamils and Muslims. It is not different to those Muslim politicians who wanted to get special benefit by supporting Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalist racism to oppress Tamil community. I am sure many of the Muslims will not agree with you Islamic Fundamentalism and to divide Tamil and Muslim Community. You have to make it clear what is your mother tongue? Is it Sinhala or Tamil or Arabic?
    Have you got any statistic based on ethnicity How many Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims lost their life in the Eastern Province?
    Who was responsible for the building of these 500 houses and why couldn’t it distributed to the affected people?
    When was this houses built and how many Muslim politicians were in the government at that time?

    • 1

      “…Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalist racism to oppress Tamil community.”
      Sinhala Buddhists who accommodated Tamils who came as invaders and coolies during colonial rule in their country did not use racism to oppress Tamil community. But sad to say that those Tamils resorted to violence and terrorism against indigenous Sinhalayo. Tamil terrorists chased away Sinhalayo who lived in NE and grabbed their land. Now racist Tamil politicians say ‘Sinhalayo are not welcome in the North’. After war came to an end, more and more Tamils from NE are moving to Sinhala areas but Sinhala Buddhists do not say ‘Tamils are not welcome in the South.’

      • 4

        Eagle Eye,
        You have proved clearly that you do not belong to Buddhism or Sinhala. You are one of opportunistic blood loving violent person. Being a slave of Colonial invaders for nearly five centuries, it is not surprise that you made those Tamils who was brought by Colonial invaders for brightening this island as slaves. You again now prepared to be slave of another invader from China by selling this land. It is those Sinhalayo who are selling this island to invaders.

  • 0

    “Saudi Arabia built 500 houses to Muslim families affected by Tsunami.”
    A classic example of
    Tsunami Aid-Racism Even In Human Misery.


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