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Government Gazette

Tsunami swindlers

THE December 26, 2004 tsunami generated a tidal wave of sympathy worldwide. International agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) had little trouble in collecting millions of dollars as tsunami aid for the 11 countries affected by the calamity. Sri Lanka, being one of the worst-hit countries, received particular attention.

Newspapers reported yesterday that the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating operations of NGOs has charged that the NGOs had misappropriated tsunami funds exceeding US$ 1 billion.

This is a vast sum of money by any stretch of the imagination and one can only surmise as to how many tsunami-hit families could have benefitted from such largesse.

This has apparently not been the case. The money has never really reached the intended targets and disappeared deep into the pockets of some NGOs.

Sri Lanka has a myriad of NGOs, some of which are plainly limited to nameboards. They exist solely to collect funds from local and foreign sources ostensibly for various humanitarian projects, including the tsunami.

It is no secret that several hundreds of NGOs sprang up virtually overnight after the tsunami to take advantage of the generosity of people who were moved by the tragedy.

They can get away with such swindles thanks to the lax enforcement of laws relating to NGOs in Sri Lanka. As the committee has pointed out, the financial transactions of NGOs in Sri Lanka are not transparent.

There is little or no monitoring of NGO activity, including fundraising. This has serious implications for a developing country such as Sri Lanka, as some NGOs have been known to be fronts for groups that threaten national security or a cover for religious conversion.

It is thus time for the Government and the NGO Secretariat to act fast to stem the rot. If existing legal provisions are inadequate to monitor them, new legislation should be passed.

This should cover a monitoring process that begins when an NGO is registered and scrutinises its transactions every step of the way. The NGOs' roles and parameters should be strictly spelt out, so that they cannot step beyond the defined subject areas.

This does not mean that all NGOs are bad. But such legislation will expose the bad eggs and in the long run, help minimise corruption in the NGO sector.

Mercury rising at Police

THE country is facing an energy crisis, mainly as a result of its dependence on thermal power generation. Oil has climbed to record prices in the world market, dealing a blow to developing countries such as Sri Lanka, a net importer of oil.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently unveiled a National Action Plan for Energy Conservation with the aim of reducing wastage in power consumption.

Even one light bulb left switched on day and night in an empty room can add to the energy burden. Switching even a single bulb off can save energy - and money - in the long term. It goes without saying that the worst culprits are high-energy consuming durables such as airconditioners, heaters and electric ovens.

Over the years, the airconditioner has almost ceased to be a luxury item and become more affordable to the point where even some middle-class residences boast at least one of them. All new buildings are necessarily airconditioned.

Airconditioning has also become a norm in the Government sector, with State institutions liberally installing airconditioners not only in offices but also in official residences of top officials.

We are penning these lines after being informed of a rather peculiar circular now literally doing the rounds in the Police Department. It seems to be the Police's answer to the energy crunch, though with a unique twist. As per these instructions, airconditioners installed at all official residences of officers below and including SSPs have to be removed and returned to the stores.

It rather conveniently does not mention about the official residences of the IGP and the DIGs, implying that they can continue to enjoy the cool comfort while lower rankers face the ignominy of literally taking the heat. This is hypocrisy at its best, to say the least.

What the Police top brass should have done instead is setting an example to the lower rankers by removing their A/Cs first. That is true leadership. Asking others to give up creature comforts while the top brass continue to enjoy them will only lead to widespread resentment among Police personnel. Contributing to a national cause should be a collective effort from top to bottom, with no exceptions.

Tamil grievances, aspirations, demands and solutions

THE concept of a Tamil homeland is a myth as many have pointed out in recent national newspapers. According to the Constitution every citizen has equal rights to settle anywhere in the country, if he or she wishes. Sri Lankan Tamils have always availed themselves of this right without any restriction or prohibition. This is evidenced by more than half the population of Sri Lankan Tamils in the island being settled outside the demanded "homeland", with their numbers increasing daily!

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Never ever allow to bargain on the unity of the Nation

TODAY the Muslims are totally in favour of a unitary government and a united Lanka. I would strongly urge in these circumstances that special provision be included in the new Constitution to avoid any such division."

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Ted Grant: Standard bearer of Trotskyism

THE Democratic Left Front recalls with much affection the close relationship many of us have had with Ted at the time when a new left, disillusioned with 1970-77 "Coalition politics", was emerging.

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