Clinton meets TRO Executive Director

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 13:20 GMT]
TRO Executive Director Mr. K P Regi told the United Nations Special Envoy President Bill Clinton the problems that have led to the disappointing progress made thus far in Phase III of the Tsunami recovery programme in the NorthEast when he talked to Mr Clinton during the Sri Lankan Civil Society organization meeting in Colombo Tuesday. President Clinton had mentioned to Mr. Regi that he is aware of the problems facing the NorthEast and that he will endeavour to address these issues.

President Clinton is currently on a visit to Sri Lanka as a part of an assessment tour of post-Tsunami recovery efforts.

Mr Regi handed President Clinton a letter on behalf of TRO which highlighted the problems that the people of the NorthEast face and explained the problems that TRO has encountered working in the NorthEast.

“TRO’s work is funded through partnerships with 35 international NGOs, UN agencies, bilateral donors and the Tamil Diaspora, who contribute through our 14 overseas offices. NGO’s and individuals from the USA, such as Operation USA and CitiHope, have provided funds and other aid that has vastly increased our ability to serve the affected populations” the TRO letter stated.

UN Special Envoy meets with TRO Executive Director
Library Photo UN Envoy and Former
US President Bill Clinton
met TRO Director K. P. Regi
on 28 May 2005
The letter stated: “I would like to call your attention to some of the problems that TRO has experienced during the past year as it strove to provide relief, rehabilitation, and development to the people of the NorthEast… We regret to inform you that due to the prevailing conflict environment in Sri Lanka, humanitarian endeavours in this country continue to be highly politicised. This has led to the delivery of aid to the affected population being negatively impacted”.

The letter outlined some of the false allegations that have been directed towards TRO in an attempt to distract the organization from its commitment. “TRO is being victimised and our organisation is being maligned by concerted and malicious propaganda campaigns and physical assault, both in Sri Lanka and in the international community, making it difficult for us to serve the affected populations.”

“The continuing attacks upon the TRO Batticaloa office, which has been attacked by unknown parties 5 times, are an example of this. During these attacks hand grenades and automatic machine gun fire have been directed at the office. Numerous staff members have been injured and one staff member was killed during one of these attacks.”

“Our main support base, the Tamil Diaspora community, has experienced intimidation by parties which wish to politicize our work in the NorthEast”.

The letter also highlighted that TRO has recently published its audited financial statement for the post-tsunami period, “We are very proud to inform you that TRO Sri Lanka is the only organization among those that are involved in post tsunami relief and rehabilitation work in Sri Lanka, both national and international, to have published audited accounts of the tsunami funding (January - June 2005). These audited accounts were sent in August to the Sri Lankan President, the Prime Minister, all Members of Parliament and to the international development community.”

The letter also cited the lack of an acceptable institutional mechanism for the delivery of tsunami aid to be a crucial problem. “It is very distressing to note that the humanitarian needs of the NorthEast keep growing with each successive disaster and yet there continues to be an absence of an institutional mechanism for the delivery of relief, rehabilitation and development that is acceptable to all parties to the current conflict. This has made it even more difficult for organizations such as ours to fulfil our mandate."

“TRO is committed to providing humanitarian service which is NON-POLITICAL. TRO works in the GoSL and LTTE areas with ALL 3 ethnic groups (Sinhala, Muslim & Tamil). Phase I & II were successful because INGOs came and worked with local NGOs like TRO.”

The letter pointed out that in Phase III, the needs of the NorthEast are being addressed slower due to the lack of a structure to channel the funds to the beneficiaries to rebuild the communities and that this is attributable to failure of the PTOMs.

The letter also highlighted some of the significant equity issues that arise as a result of the different approaches INGOs, other agencies and governments take when working in the GoSL versus. LTTE controlled areas. Inequity in treatment of war affected versus tsunami affected was mentioned as another major concern in the post tsunami period

TRO’s letter further said: “Tsunami has lead to a recentralization of the few powers that were devolved to the provinces. All decisions are made in Colombo without much consultation with the local authorities. Centralised controls of all flow Tsunami funds and assistance by the government of Sri Lanka, including the funds and the endeavours of civil society is ensuring the perpetuation of some of the embedded problems. The lack of competency, excessive control, corruption and politicisation in the government bureaucracy are problems that are entrenched in Sri Lanka. These have become significant detractors to the progress of Tsunami recovery, particularly in the NorthEast. This compulsion to control progress from Colombo is significantly affecting TROs ability to respond to the challenges it faces."

Un-publicised security related controls by Colombo are also limiting the smooth flow of construction and other relief materials to Tamil areas, the letter said.

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