Mahinda as PM has done jack for Tsunami victims, besides steal money
Of the assorted bungling you can credit to the People’s Alliance, the tsunami response is the saddest. It’s almost a year later and almost 80,000 people are still homeless. From the moment they got involved (days after the disaster) the government has been slowing down and at times simply banning reconstruction. By banning I’m referring to the 100 meter rule, which was partially rescinded. As sitting Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse is responsible for those 80,000 Sri Lankans still homeless, and he has failed them. Even worse, he was under investigation for siphoning Rs 83 million from the national relief fund into a private ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund. Then, even worse worse, he covered up the investigation. Tsunami victims are still homeless, an investigation was covered up, and this man should not be President. He’s incompetent and corrupt and has only a smile to redeem himself.
Included is an article I drafted for the Leisure Times. This is an earlier, unedited version. I’m partisan, but I tried to be balanced here:
Presidential Elections are a time for politicians to dole out promises, clog up traffic and generally lift their legs on Sri Lanka. Like mangy street dogs they leave their mark on every passing car and signpost to mark their territory and rights as alpha males. Colombo is flush with hoardings and plastic streamers and the promises in the air are just as ephemeral and transitory. One positive is that the government has finally revised the 100-meter rule in response to the noisy democracy. That is, the ostrich has finally peeked its head out of the sand. Both candidates have issued manifestos which, apart from the usual boiler-plate, have some crucial differences on the tsunami, especially for war-affected areas.
Ranil Wickremesinghe criticizes the government response, calls for the complete removal of the 100-meter rule, immediate installation of an early warning system and legal action against those pilfering tsunami funds. He calls for reconstructing all partially damaged houses within 3 months and completely damaged houses within 6 months.
Mahinda Rajapakse criticizes the government response (as sitting Prime Minister, oddly enough), says he will allow case-by-case rebuilding within the 100-meters, and calls for a Rs. 500 million fund for orphans. His manifesto says that he will facilitate rebuilding with the recommendations of a Parlimentary Select Committee.
Confronted with all the territorial pissings, the sitting alpha male has already revised the 100 meter rule. The buffer will be reduced to a range between 55-25 meters in the southern districts and 100 to 50 meters in the northeast, according to the government Information Department. There are, however, still no moves towards a warning system or a settlement with the LTTE. The difference in future policy is that Ranil calls for a blanket removal, where as Mahinda calls for deciding contracts case-by-case.
In terms of the tsunami-affected North and East, the manifestos diverge more dramatically. Ranil calls for expanding the framework of the Oslo and Tokyo declarations and basically resuming his policy as Prime Minister. This includes the current cease fire. Mahinda, however, asserts that the talks of 2002-2004 had no tangible or positive results. He says that the cease-fire was short-sighted and hasty and calls for a fresh approach.
All in all, the country can go in two dramatically different directions this November. Once you get over who lifts his leg the highest or kisses the most babies, there are pretty concrete policy differences. Whether these actually determine elections is uncertain, but in terms of life on the ground this election will usher in a real sea change. The only question is what sort of change you prefer.