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Sri Lanka: Disasters hit 1.6 mn people

January 2, 2014

An article from The Island forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Sri Lanka: Disasters hit 1.6 mn people, but Met equipment remains outdated – UNP

Billions of rupees had been wasted on government propaganda exercises but the Meteorological Department was not properly equipped and the Disaster Management Website, too, remained outdated due to lack of funds, an Opposition legislator charged yesterday.

Eran Wickremeratne MP told The Island it was shocking that despite a total of over 1.6 million people being affected by disasters in the last two years, the Rajapaksa regime could not find just one billion rupees to update equipment at the Meteorological Department.

How much it would cost to upload the latest data on to the Disaster Management Department's Website, he queried, pointing out that the fearful and sad memories of the 2004 December tsunami which destroyed 41,000 lives were still very much alive, but the authorities could not find the small sum of money to provide the public with information of critical importance.

The Disaster Management Act of 2005 required that the National Plan to deal with calamities be made known widely. If the Disaster Management Ministry could not even disseminate timely information one could imagine how it would respond in a crisis situation, the MP observed.

When one looked at the billions of rupees expended on ego boosting exercises, not to mention the unprecedented corruption which had resulted in the National Debt zooming from nearly Rs. 2 trillion in 2005 to Rs. 6.6 trillion in just eight years, Wickremeratne said, the failure to provide the required finances to buy equipment and provide updated information crucial for the peoples very existence, could be described as a national crime.

MP Wickremeratne recalled that when the Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was questioned recently in Parliament why the vacancies at the Meteorological Department had not been filled, his reply had been that he expected the Ministry of Public Administration to do it.

While there were pending natural disasters in the Matale and Ratnapura Districts due to haphazard mining and soil erosion, the Geological Survey Department had indicated that there were plate movements and other geological factors that may cause calamities, he noted urging the government to heed the warnings given by scientists.


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