Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tsunami Justice Working Group Meeting

It was the second meeting I had with Tsunami Justice Working Group. We further worked on building the statement of principles and actions, raising the profile of issues listed in the statement of principles, proposing future events and task force.

It was agreed that we should hold a set of events in the coming months in order to raise the profile of our alternative analysis of why the damage of the tsunami was so massive, and how the reconstruction should be conducted.

As previously discussed, we will be having two public meetings: one in downtown Toronto, the other in Scarborough with speakers from the affected region. KAIROS is bringing speakers from Aceh, Indonesia for an event about the War on Terror. It was thought best to hold our meetings around the time that these guests are coming (in May). Logan also has connections to Sri Lankans who are interested in speaking with Canadians about the situation there. Logan and Connie (from KAIROS) will be working on determining specific dates for their arrival. Ethan will be working to book space to hold these events.

There is also interest in holding a press conference in preparation of the public meetings to highlight these issues. Olivia Chow's office has expressed interest in participating if the timing is right. We will also be working with Jack Layton's office to present our statement of principles as a petition in the house. Frank is working on getting Jack's office to send someone to the next meeting. We will have to get a number of people/organizations to sign the petition.

There was a discussion of lobbying government agencies and large 'mainstream' relief agencies to bring forward these issues. There was discussion of arranging meetings between our guests various NGOs. It was observed that about the time we are thinking of having our meetings, is similar times to when a number of the larger groups are having annual general meetings.

Our next meeting will be held on March 23, 2005 at CAW Hall (720 Spadina).
Following are press releases and actions distributed during this meeting.


Concerns about the United States Government Agenda in Sri Lanka

22nd February 2005

George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton visited Sri Lanka on 20th and 21st February as part of their tour of countries affected by the recent tsunami.

Their valuable work in raising private funds for the relief and reconstruction activities to rebuild the lives of the survivors is both very necessary and highly appreciated. It is reported that the people of the United States have donated a total of $700m so far. Their solidarity and goodwill is essential for Sri Lanka.

We would like to take the opportunity offered by their visit to highlight some concerns that we, the Alliance for the Protection of National Resources and Human Rights, have regarding the involvement of the United States Government in Sri Lanka.

The United States Government sent their military to Sri Lanka to assist in the immediate relief effort after the tsunami. While this work is now finished, they still maintain a presence in the vicinity, with one of their warships currently anchored in Colombo. From the experience of the United States Government in other countries, particularly most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, we find this very disconcerting, for two reasons. First, in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, former United States Secretary of States Colin Powell announced that they considered their involvement in the relief and rehabilitation to be primarily a question of ensuring the security of the United States, to prevent the thousands of displaced people living in camps from being recruited by terrorist groups. This is obviously worrying, when viewed in conjunction with the aggression currently being exercised by the United States Government under the guise of their War on Terror in other countries in the region. Secondly, there have long been rumours that the United States Military is looking to establish a permanent base in Sri Lanka in order to facilitate this same aggression. We are completely opposed to United States Military presence in Sri Lanka, under any circumstances and for any period.

The United States Government has also in the past regularly used their financial weight to push Sri Lanka further along the road of neo-liberal economic reform, both via the IMF and World Bank and their Structural Adjustment Programmes, and directly through their own bilateral finance and the new Millenium Challenge Account. This path of development has not worked in Sri Lanka and furthermore it has been wholeheartedly rejected by the people of Sri Lanka. However, it is now being resurrected in the post-tsunami rebuilding plans.

We strongly reject any misuse of the tsunami disaster to advance any other agenda than the rebuilding of the lives of the survivors, and would consider this to be an abuse of the solidarity and goodwill of the people of the United States who have so generously given their support to Sri Lanka. We encourage the United States Government to reorient their policies with this in mind.

Alliance for the Protection of National Resources and Human Rights
c/o MONLAR, 1151/58A, 4th Lane, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka
Outcomes of Conference on Post-Tsunami Challenges
MONLAR was one of over 70 organisations that participated in the recent Asian Civil Society Conferenfe on Post-Tsunami Challenges in Bangkok, Thailand, on 13th and 14th February 2005. Participants discussed the challenges posed by the tsunami and strategies that could be adopted to overcome these.
Main Issues
  1. Unsatisfactory nature of government's Rebuilding Sri Lanka plan, which was issued one week after the tsunami (which strongly suggests that it was a pre-tsunami plan, hastily dressed up as a tsunami response). Also the highly partisan nature of the government's three task forces to respond to tsunami, which had no representation at all from civil society or the political opposition.

  2. Absence of effective assistance to the tsunami affected people who are continuing to languish in refugee camps nearly 7 weeks after the tsunami, not knowing what is in store with them.

  3. Failure of government and LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam also known as The Tamil National Army) to cooperate with one another in enabling resources to flow into LTTE controlled areas to meet the needs of the people living in those areas.

  4. Identifying the macro political and international dimension of tsunami relief that has seen international armed forces coming in to perform tsunami relief and also the UN decision to make President Clinton its special envoy on tsunami.

Domestic Level
  1. The need to get a study done with facts and figures and disseminate the results of that study as a critique on the governmental strategy to rebuild the nation.

  2. Organise an assessment mission of Sri Lankan academics who will interview the affected people, do field research and analyse the available statistics. Currently this type of study is invariably commissioned by multilateral organizations and is done by foreign research personnel.

  3. Appoint a People's Commission to make a comprehensive assessment of the situation, following public hearings with media publicity, to be a tool of public education and mobilization.

  4. Sri Lankan NGOs need to provide information and ideas to their international NGO partners who will lobby internationally to ensure justice to the tsunami victims.
Regional Strategy
  1. Forum Asia should be persuaded to issue a statement or resolution asking for a complete revision of the government's relief and reconstruction plans and critiquing its appointment of task forces with unsuitable representation.

  2. Forum Asia to initiate and work in partnership with the International Fisher Organisation and comparable organisations, to establish the international people's commission that will have credibility with the affected communities. This process should lead to a People's Charter for Livelihood, Relief and Reconstruction in the Post Tsunami Phase.

  3. The Planning group of this consultation should prepare a set of guidelines for the formation of the international commission and its work plan.

Focus Issue
  1. Start lobbying for the reestablishment of people so that they can return to their normal lives. Advocate that people's homes be rebuilt from the debris of their old homes and in the same locations for speedy and low cost resettlement, along with the provision of their boats and other equipment to regain their livelihoods.

  2. Advocate that people in every region should decide on their reconstruction by themselves and they should have equal access to national and international resources. Appropriate mechanism should be developed to ensure this right in civil war affected countries.

  3. Study and understand the international macro political dimension that lies behind international financial and military responses to the tsunami crisis, and the role of the UN with President Bill Clinton at the special envoy on tsunami relief.

For more information on the details given here, please contact Sarath Fernando at MONLAR.

Movement for National Land and Agricultureal Reform (MONLAR)
No. 1151/58a, 4th Lane, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka
Tel & Fax: 094 11 4407663
Tel: 094 11 2865534


Asian Civil Society Consultation on Post-Tsunami Challenges


We, over 70 participants from community-based, national and international non-governmental organizations from the tsunami affected areas in Asia, came together at the Asian Civil Society Consultation on Post-Tsunami Challenges in Bangkok, Thailand on Feruary 13-14, 2005 to discuss the various challenges posed by the disaster of December 26, 2004.

We express our solidarity with the survivors and victims of this disaster, and acknowledge the tremendous empathy that has manifested both locally and internationally, in the wake of this tragedy. A speedy revival of normal life, through a democratic process must obtain utmost priority.

Poverty, marginalisation, exclusion, conflict and discrimination amplify vulnerability to disaster, and we believe that the resources available for rehabilitation must be used to help rebuild just and equitable societies.
  1. It is important to legally recognize that all financial and other resources raised as donations from citizens of the world by government and non-governmental agencies belong to the affected people and cannot be appropriated by the government as its revenue. The government and others are only 'trustees' of this fund and are bound by the norms of accountability and transparency and need to ensure fair use of such resources.

  2. It is important to note that the affected communities are highly variegated amongst themselves as belonging to fishing communities, communities allied to or subordinate to fishing activities, artisans and agricultural communities and other marginalized groups like dalits, indigenous people, migrants and migrant workers especially Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, internally displaced persons, women, children, elderly, people with disabilities that is leading to devastating impacts on them.

  3. It is important to assert that the communities have a right to participate in all stages of planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring of all relief and rehabilitation processes. This is not happening satisfactorily, and we demand a radical structural change. Particular emphasis must be placed to ensure that voices of these communities are not appropriated by others and they do not become "subjects" of the relief and rehabilitation work.

  4. A most worrying trend evident in all the countries affected by the tsunami is the alienation of most of the fishing and other coastal communities from the traditional coastal land where they have lived for generations. The state and some corporate interests have launched a systematic campaign denying the rights of the fishing and other coastal communities to their original homes, including through measures, such as physical force or threats, to prevent them from returning to their original homes. It is worrying to note that certain NGOs and INGOs are acquiescing to this process by not challenging or opposing this anti-people trend.

  5. Women are more vulnerable during disasters and marginalised in their access to relief resources. To ensure that their needs and rights are properly addressed women must be involved in the consultative and decision-making processes: from camp administration and disaster management committees to policy making bodies for rehabilitation efforts.

  6. Local groups and institutions must be an integral part of any response by the international community. Given the tendency of international organisations to sideline locally elected bodies and local communities in decision-making on relief and rehabilitation, INGOs and UN agencies should take extra efforts to ensure their participation.

  7. The rights of minorities and marginalised people - including women, children, informal sector workers, internally displaced persons, migrant workers, ethnic minorities, dalits and fish workers - must be recognised in all response efforts. The specific needs of these groups must be adequately addressed, and appropriate arrangements made to protect these people from exploitation, violence, neglect, and abuse. Policies and interventions must acknowledge the rights of marginalised groups.

  8. Synergy and co-operation are vital if we are to reach out to the poorest and most marginalised community members. Concerted efforts must be made by all involved to avoid duplication of relief efforts, and to work together for long term, sustainable rehabilitation. Relief and rehabilitation assistance should be based on binding humanitarian principles and ensure that it is neutral, impartial and universal and non-discriminatory.

  9. International aid for relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction must be in the form of grants, not loans, and must be de-linked from requirements to purchase goods and services in the donors country. Similarly, all efforts must be made to cancel the existing debts of affected nations; moratoriums only shift the burden of debt to a later date.

  10. Transparency in fund use is a moral responsibility of the state, INGOs, NGOs and others. Complete details of the utilisation of funds should be made public through fortnightly reports. Vitally, the information should also include details of the amounts spent on overhead and administration costs.

  11. Human security must be paramount in international efforts. Areas of existing armed conflict, such as Aceh in Indonesia and North East Sri Lanka, present a particular challenge to humanitarian goals, but also an unprecedented opportunity to forge a breakthrough in peace processes. It is unacceptable that affected people living in conflict zones are denied full access to available resources. It is essential that the governments of all affected countries make the utmost efforts to respond to the needs of the victims of the tsunami disaster, especially in Burma where the military regime has failed to even acknowledge the true damage from the disaster. Governments must ensure that suitable mechanisms are developed, in consensus with all parties to the conflict, to deliver resources and promote peace-building.

  12. Governments must be held accountable to the commitments they have made at the recent World Conference on Disaster Reduction. National level priorities with respect to disaster reduction, preparedness, and early warning must be defined and adequately resourced.

  13. Corporate interests must not be allowed to take precedence over the interests of affected communities. It is becoming evident that corporate-driven objectives are conflicting with rehabilitation goals in some areas, and immediate action must be taken to stop and reverse this.

  14. Reconstruction and rehabilitation interventions must be sensitive to ecological and social concerns and must be appropriately designed to promote social justice, equity and environmental sustainability in a manner that supports the livelihoods and just social and economic development of the affected people.

  15. International humanitarian and human rights norms and standards must be respected, observed and ensured throughout all relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts. This should include the UN guiding principles on humanitarian assistance and on internally displaced persons. Moreover, it is important to follow a rights based approach to humanitarian assistance specifically the Right to Participation as formulated in the UN declaration on Right to Development.

We see our own role in the tsunami response as four-fold:
  1. to support humanitarian and rehabilitation efforts in all affected areas;
  2. to monitor the ongoing international response;
  3. to organise and empower community members, particularly marginalised groups, to demand their rights, and
  4. to resist initiatives that counter the greater objective of local ownership and decision-making.

We commit to hold ourselves accountable to those affected by this disaster, and to be as transparent as possible in all our efforts. We appeal to wider civil society to join us in this commitment, and we challenge international leadership to acknowledge our demands and to uphold the rights of those devastated by this disaster.

Endorsed at the consultation, unanimously by the participants on February 14, 2005


Source: Logan (TJWG)

Dark Clouds - Another Tsunami - and A New Government Order to Scatter and Dessimate Survivors of Tsunami in Tamil Nadu

The Government of Tamil Nadu through its Revenue Department has issued an order G.O.Ms.No.25, Revenue, dated 13.01.2005 seeking Public-Private Partnership in order to scatter and dessimate those victims of Tsunami who have not yet lost their lives after nature showed its fury. The summarized implication of the Government order is as follows:
  1. that those fisherfolk who are now in temporary accomodation (read: and those on the streets - be scattered) and "permanently relocated" in sites to be alloted by the Government (read: and permanently displaced from their ancestral homesteads).

  2. that NGOs, companies, corporate houses and charitable institutions (national and international) be invited to send their requests for participating in this programme.

  3. that those who can mobilise 75 lakhs (for 50 families) in order to build houses, infrastructure and provide for livelihood be invited to this partnership.

  4. that such proposals be given to the collector for his acceptance (or rejection!) and his final decision be forwarded to the Panchayat for its acceptance.

Ominous Clouds After Tsunami
Many of us who have been closely watching dark post-Tsunami clouds gathering:
  1. Recently the Government distributed a package along with Rs3000 to 4000 to survivors in Enore and asked them to vacate the school but not to return to the beach.

  2. A false warning was spread that yet another Tsunami was about to strike the Tamil Nadu coastline and that fisherfolk should not go back to the sea.

  3. Some vested interests have been spreading the rumour that the fish is poisonous and Government has maintained stoic silence about it.

  4. Relentless efforts are being made by the Government to coopt the voluntary sector through many innovative means.

  5. While the poor are without a roof Government's priority has been a wall along the coast at a cost of Rs5000 crores (with ever ready World Bank dollars!)

Real Implications for the poor
Fisherfolk living on the beach from time immemorial in their small thatched houses with their fishing nets and boats on the coast by the side of their houses have eeked out a meagre but highly dignified life by going out into the sea and returning with their catch to the shore. The women folk then collect the catch from the fishing nets and form the first link in marketing chain which provides livelihood despite denial of the market price.

This high protein diet has not only provided nutrition for them and their children but also for the poor, including dalits, tribals and marginalised dependants on the fishing economy. The right of these fisherfolk to live on the beach is sanctified by customary law since they have lived on these beaches from time immemorial (custom has the force of law if the memory of the society knoweth not to the contrary and in the case of the fisherfolk this condition is more than adequately satisfied).

Unfortunately the Government has other plans - they would apparently like to use this natural calamity to clean the beach - and make it available for tourism and big business. The victims of this grand plan - couched in a humanitarian garb - will be the fisherfolk and especially widowed women, the orphaned children, the bereaved, the elderly and other living members of the fisherfolk who have no boats and nets to return to the sea.

Unprecedented Displacement
Dark clouds are gathering in the seat of power in Tamil Nadu - this will be worse than the first Tsunami for the living poor. There are more than seven lakh fisherfolk along the coast living in more than 600 fishing community villages (Kuppams). Their livelihood is possible only in close harmony and proximity with the sea - hence they live on the beach - because they cannot carry out their self employed livelihood except by living along with their fishing nets and boats. Any proposal to relocate them, if carried out will destroy their livelihood and make them beggars like so many tribals who have been driven out from the forest.

The state will also create the material conditions under which the unemployed youth will become available to those who seek desperate solutions for livelihood outside the Rule of Law. This will become a classical case where the state destroys existing livelihood and creates the condition for lawlessness to take over and then seek further aid to curtail terrorism and the like. We know from a long story of past experience that Government cannot give them alternate livelihoods. In any case these fisherfolk cannot be forcibly prevented from reclaiming their homestead on the beach - because - they have the right "to prior possession" as well as the "right to livelihood" as laid down by the Supreme Court - even in a celebrated case of fisherfolk themselves. (In Joseph vs. The state of Kerala)

If in spite of these apprehensions the state is hell bent on "permanent relocation and rehabilitation of the affected persons" (via Government order cited above) let them build these new houses with their own funds, provide alternate employment and offer the title deeds to the affected along with alternate jobs and then invite the affected persons to make their choice. If the alternates are attractive and real enough - surely the affected people will take them -- but -- till these utopian ideas are put into practice the Government has no right to further displace those affected - hence the NGOs, the corporates, and the charitable institutions must come together in order to rebuild the destroyed houses out of the same thatch with which the fisherfolk historically built their houses and quickly provide boats and nets so that the fisherfolk can return to the sea and resume their life of dignity pending realisation of the new government utopia!

All friends of fisherfolk, dalits and the poor should join their voices and actions to avert the next state sponsored Tsunami!

Baby Matthew
New Delhi
16 Jan 2005


CCIC News Release - Tsunami (Jan. 18, 2005)

Hope amidst the Destruction: Time to unite against poverty

Statement by The Global Call to Action against Poverty on the policy implications of the Tsunami

  1. On December 26, 2004, an earthquake of unusual violence hit Indonesia and the subsequent Tsunami affected the shores of the Indian Ocean in both Asia and Africa, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and seriously affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in many countries. Whilst this disaster has caused great despair, the global wave of solidarity and public generosity that followed it offers hope amidst the destruction.

  2. The destruction from the Tsunami was not merely a "natural disaster" but was greatly exacerbated by extreme poverty and marginalization for which governments both in the affected countries and in the rich world must take responsibility.

  3. The substantial support now promised by governments is a direct result of pressure from the public and civil society organizations across the world. This demonstrates once again that when ordinary people unite across the world against injustice they can force world leaders to act.

  4. The significant financial pledges that have now been made need to become a reality. We must see the pledged money turned into real money and spent on ensuring that the rights of the poorest and most marginalized people are fulfilled. The members of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty will monitor this at every level.

  5. Relief is not enough and a return to the status quo would still leave the communities most affected by the Tsunami in poverty. We need a shift in national and international policies to eliminate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This includes trade justice, debt cancellation, a major increase in the quantity and quality of aid, and national anti-poverty efforts that are democratic, transparent, and accountable to citizens.

  6. The form of the relief and development effort is as important as the amounts of money spent on it. Already members of the Global Call to Action against Poverty have witnessed discrimination in the Tsunami response based on religious, caste, ethnic, economic and gender inequalities. Everyone involved in the Tsunami response has a duty to ensure that there is no discrimination at any level, that women and men are shown equal respect, and that all affected people, especially the poorest and most marginalized, are able to shape the relief and development effort carried out in their name. Particular attention must be paid to the protection of children.

  7. All tsunami aid must be additional and not at the cost of aid to the poorest countries; and just as the Tsunami necessitates debt cancellation in Asia, so HIV/AIDS necessitates debt cancellation in Africa.

  8. Whilst the devastation following from the Tsunami has resulted in unprecedented media coverage, the devastation wreaked on Africa, Latin America and Asia every week from continuing international inaction on debt, aid and trade is actually greater in scale. Avoiding this weekly "man-made Tsunami" requires the same solidarity and determination in the global public response as has been shown in response to the "natural tsunami". On July 1st before the G8 meeting, and on 10th September before the UN Special Session, millions of people will put on a white band as a symbol of their demand for action against poverty.

  9. Earthquakes are unpredictable, but many of the deaths resulting from the Tsunami could have been avoided if a warning system had been in place. Similarly, we already know that thousands of children are going to die this year from diseases that can be cured and the livelihoods of millions of poor people are going to be affected by decisions on trade and finances taken by the leaders of the richest countries of the world. Wearing white bands will be our early warning. World leaders have no excuse for not taking action.

Note: The Global Call to Action against Poverty ( is a world-wide alliance committed to pushing world leaders to live up to their promises, and to make a breakthrough on poverty in 2005. Many of the members of the Global Call to Action against Poverty are actively working on the ground right now to help the people affected by the Tsunami.

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