FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
26 December 2009
5 Years On
Today International Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (iTRO) staff and volunteers worldwide honored the memory of those killed in the 26 December 2004 Tsunami, 27 of whom were TRO staff. Five years after the death and destruction of the tsunami much work has been completed and many lives rebuilt by TRO Sri Lanka and others in the humanitarian community.
The initial tsunami response showed the best part of humanity as all communities and organizations came together to assist those in need. Unfortunately, this did not last long and today thousands of families in the NorthEast of Sri Lanka who were originally affected by the tsunami have continued to face displacement, trauma, death and destruction. Today, many remain confined in internment camps after being displaced from the Mullaitivu District due to war. Others in the East and South of the country have yet to be resettled due land availability and a variety of other issues including being displaced by war. Much of the tsunami aid donated for these communities in the NorthEast, especially the LTTE controlled areas, was never spent due to problems of access and transportation of materials. It is now time to honor the wishes of the donors and spend that aid to rebuild the lives of those communities.
The recent war caused a tremendous amount of death and suffering to civilians, the extent of which may never be known or comprehended, additionally, thousands of tsunami houses and other infrastructure that had been completed, or were close to being completed, have been destroyed by the fighting. TRO Sri Lanka was the only NGO that continued to provide assistance to those in the ‘safe zone’ until the very end. In doing so 19 TRO staff were killed in shelling or bombings.
Now that the war is over it is paramount that the needs of all internally displaced persons (IDPs) must be immediately addressed and all necessary measures must be taken to ensure that the IDPs are able to return to their original homes, villages or lands. This includes those displaced due to colonization in the pre-1983 era, those displaced between 1983 and 2002, the Muslim IDPs in the Puttalam District who were displaced from the North, those displaced by the 2004 tsunami, those displaced by the fighting in 2007/8 in the East, and the 300,000 plus who have been displaced from the Vanni in 2008/9.
These IDPs need resettlement, rehabilitation, and reconstruction and the entire NorthEast is in dire need of development after more than 30 years of war and 30 years of neglect prior to the outbreak of war. Development can, at times, be used as a political tool to create ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and reward sections of society or communities over others. The expected development of the NorthEast must not be a continuation of war by other means.
International TRO appeals to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), in the sprit of ‘post-war’ reconciliation and for the benefit of those who continue to suffer, to remove the ban on TRO Sri Lanka, release all TRO Staff held in the camps or in the custody of the police or armed forces, and release the US$ 700,000 in TRO Sri Lanka accounts intended for tsunami affected communities that the GoSL froze in September 2006. After registering with the GoSL in 2003 and after the 2004 tsunami, TRO Sri Lanka quickly became recognized as one of the most effective, dedicated, and capable NGOs in the country while working with all three communities: Tamil, Muslim, and Sinhala. TRO Sri Lanka partnered with and received funds from the GoSL, UNICEF, UNDP, IOM, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, and hundreds of other international NGOs and foreign governments. TRO was completely transparent and accountable in all of these projects and partnerships. Even the President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga Banadnariake, recognized this fact and presented TRO Sri Lanka an award for constructing over 10,000 temporary shelters after the Tsunami.
Additionally, TRO Sri Lanka is an organization with...