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
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
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
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
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
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.