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 Post subject: Fantasy Island - 3 months over, Nothing has happened
 Post Posted: Sat Mar 26, 2005 6:40 pm 
Fantasy Island

26 March 2005 10:14 hours

Sri Lankans are adept at reading the future – they see what's coming, but sadly, being stuck on an island, have little room to run.

Three months after the tsunami its difficult to find anyone feeling any happier in the paradise isle.

"The priority is politics, not tsunami reconstruction," says J C Weliamuna, Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), translating the general feeling into English.

The Alliance government, like the monkey, is busy praising its tail but no amount of tail swishing will chase away the giant question marks that follow government aid delivery everywhere.

Like the Commission to Enquire into Allegations of Bribery and Corruption, transparency and accountability in tsunami aid delivery, is all in the talk.

So far the government has ignored requests by local civil organizations to be directly involved - with the Auditor General - in monitoring aid delivery from grass root up.

And this is not likely to happen any day soon either when "even the foreign donors are not sufficiently monitoring the money they send in," according to TISL.

But three months after the tsunami there are bigger things than tsunami aid brewing in the paradise island.

The warning bells starting going off after the President's speech at an International Women's Day rally this month.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga said she was "confident that more than 80 per cent of the people will agree on devolution of power, if a referendum were to be held today."

Since the North and the East want autonomy anyway and since the South is largely pro-Alliance, many people are willing to take this statement at word value.

What people are not convinced about though, is the legality of what happens next.

"A referendum is only a way of getting the views of the people. It has no legal effect. You need two third majority to amend the Constitution to devolve power," says Constitutional expert Rohan Edrisinha.

But it doesn't take to crystal ball to know that when the priority is to remain in power, legalities are dispensable.

Where the much-exhibited tsunami victims come into the grant design is unclear - unless it's in the hope that existing displacement and confusion will help the power cause.

After all, tsunami victims stuck in camps have little to do except fill up aid forms, so getting them to tick 'yes' to devolution could all be in a days work.

But how the government hopes to provide these thousands with some form of permanent shelter before the Southwest monsoon hits the island in May, is still a foggy subject.

The last time the sea came to land (muhuda goda-gelima) over 2,200 years ago, the islanders stopped it by setting King Kavantissa’s daughter Devi adrift in a boat.

By hindsight the tsunami seems to have been another missed opportunity - putting all the local politicians in a boat and throwing it into the sea without a paddle may sound barbaric but could have been most effective.

-LBO Newsdesk: lboemail@vanguardlk.com

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