These are the meetings from a February 19th Council Meeting. It’s a bit late, but the depth of information is good. The meeting chaired by Ms.Udani Mendis started with a few minutes of meditation. Annex 1 gives the names of those attending the meeting. Matters Arising include Fisherfolk Policy, 5R Progress, Shanthi Sena Volunteers, Rebuilding, etc.
a. Policy regarding assistance to fisherfolk
Mr.C.Jayaratne raised the question of the philosophical stand of Sarvodaya on assisting fishermen affected by the tsunami. Mr.A.S.Jayawardena said that building of houses for the fishermen should be all right. Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne commented that a major item of work under the 5R programme was “Livelihood Support” and assistance to fishermen should be provided under this. Mr.Emil Anthony reported that in Puttalam, loans had been given to fishermen to buy boats. Mr.Daya Mutukumarana observed that this was only “rehabilitation” and that no new activities were being started. Winding up the discussion, Dr. A.T.Ariyaratne said that the current situation was a very abnormal one and hence we should make appropriate changes to meet the needs of the affected people without sticking to a dogmatic position irrespective of the changes taking place. The group most affected by the tsunami were the fisherfolk. They should be assisted to re-start their lives. The Council agreed with this position.
II.Agenda Item: Report of progress of 5R Programme in the affected districts
Mr.Subasena de Silva, DED/Field Operations made a brief presentation of the work done so far.
i.In the selected 226 villages
The presentation based on the operational steps for the “Second Stage” outlined at the last meeting was as follows:
a.Establishment of Shanti Sena teams(camps) in the villages
The following table indicates the current position.
| District | No.of camps proposed | No.of camps established | Volunteers |
| Gampaha | 06 | 06 | 60 |
| Galle | 30 | 20 | 200 |
| Kalutara | 26 | 19 | 180 |
| Matara | 26 | 17 | 164 |
| Hambantota | 19 | 14 | 107 |
| Colombo West | 04 | 03 | 30 |
| Ampara | 03 | 03 | 30 |
| Kalmunai | 35 | 20 | 193 |
| Batticaloa | 21 | 10 | 100 |
| Trincomalee | 40 | 01 | 10 |
| Jaffna | 05 | 0 | 0 |
| Kilinochchi | 05 | 0 | 0 |
| Mullaitivu | 05 | 0 | 0 |
| Puttalam | 01 | 0 | 0 |
| Total | 226 | 113 | 1074 |
Mr.Subasena de Silva explained that it was not possible to send people from outside to reside in camps in the North. Also for some of the villages in the South, it was possible for one camp to serve two villages.
b. Sarvodaya activities in the villages
The visiting members of the Shanti Sena teams have started working with the community members and activities such as the following are taking place in the villages with the active participation of the community:
Holding of family gatherings,
Religious and cultural activities
First aid / Preventive health activities
Cleaning of the environment
Providing meals to pregnant and lactating mothers, children and elders
Activities for children
c. Implementation of 4 – 6 month plans by the village communities
This has started in about 75 villages and plans are being implemented. Some of the villages are supported through the special projects now being implemented such as the Water and Sanitation Project under USAID. Others are being supported by the district centres from the resources supplied to them. From the start of the relief operations, HQ has supplied food supplies worth Rs. 40 million while the districts on their own have collected food supplies to the value of Rs.5 million.
Mr.Silva also gave details of funds already committed for construction work in 75 villages. The construction work includes the construction of houses, water tanks, construction and repair of toilets, making of compost pits and cleaning of well. Seven donors have committed Rs. 673 million for this work which is now underway.
III. Agenda Item: Problems / Issues in relation to the 5 R Programme
Arising from the progress report, the following were discussed.
i. State permission for housing construction
Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne speaking on the issue of state approval, said that where approval has been granted we can go ahead. It is always possible to wait till the state decides. But the indications are that this will take considerable time and we cannot wait. He said that beyond the 100 m limit there is plenty of land and villagers have also donated land. We should go ahead with constructions beyond the 100 m limit. He also referred to the type plan of a house put out by the state which is estimated to cost Rs.500 000/=. While we could stick to such a type plan, it is the Sarvodaya experience that when we work with the community we could do more than just build the house with that money. It may be possible to build a pre-school / library in addition. Children who now do not have a “home” to study could use a library. He was of the view that John Keels should be asked to go ahead and they should get in touch with DED/FO. Ms.Dulani Mendis observed that permission is required to build houses and that Sarvodaya has registered with TAFREN to construct 150 houses per district. Mr. A.S.Jayawardena observed that if we are only “repairing” outside the 100 m limit, then no permission is needed from the state as such but permission is needed only from the relevant local authority. Hence he was of the view that we could go ahead.
Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne said that Sarvodaya was an independent movement operating under an Act of Parliament and as the President of the LJSSS he has the power, under the Act, to instruct the staff to go ahead with the house constructions- outside the 100 m limit – with the approval of the relevant local authorities as is usually done.
Mr.Shakila Wijewardena said that it was not a case of only building houses but the families involved had home gardens and there were other activities in relation to these families like those under SEEDS and it was necessary to co-ordinate the house-building with activities under other projects. SEEDS was working with around 10 000 families he said.
ii. Review of projects
Mr.C.Jayaratne suggested that for each major project there should be a committee for the review of the project as a whole. He said that it was not only a matter of “quantity” but “quality” was also of concern. Reports should include financial statements; lessons learnt; any issues of public concern, etc. He was of the view that in this meetings of the Council, we can only look at information but not review projects. As an example he referred to the Water and Sanitation project funded by USAID, where Mr.Nandana Jayasinghe reported the reluctance of people to engage in re-planting since they could get assistance any way. Mr.Jayasinghe also reported the need to abandon wells and dig new ones. Mr.Jayaratne said that “lessons learnt” such as these should be shared.
Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne referred to the well constructed by Mr.Dharmaratnam, a water engineer at the Moratuwa Campus, which did not draw on ground water. He said that it is this kind of well which may be needed.
iii. Support for implementing short-term plans being developed by communities
Referring to the short-term plans being developed in the selected villages, Mr.Ravi Kandage mentioned some of his experiences. The village people do not expect aid continuously. They are more keen to re-start their income-generation activities. He cited the example of a person who wanted to re-start his restaurant. Mr.Kandage further stated that each family was different. Subscribing to this, Mr.Subasena de Silva referred to the request made by a group of retail fish traders of Hambantota who only wanted some weighing balances. He also mentioned that a group of small-scale fishermen at Kalutara had asked for fishing nets which cost only about Rs. 4000 per net. At Matara people wanted assistance to buy the wooden equipment for making lace.
Dr. A.T.Ariyaratne said that all such requests should be met. Dr.Vinya Ariyaratne said that there is no problem of meeting such expenses out of the funds allocated for “Livelihood Support” whenever there is a request from a district.
Mr.Subasena de Silva mentioned that the District Co-ordinator Ampara/Kalmunai had recommended the supply of mosquito nets to the Eastern University on a request by the Registrar which has already been approved by Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne.
Mr.C.Jayaratne said that while all these requests may be met there should be no relaxation of the transparency of our work. He reiterated the recommendations made earlier to use digital cameras to record our work and said that such recordings would contribute very much to exercising the necessary controls and ensuring transparency. Mr.Subasena de Silva said that digital cameras have been bought for five districts. Mr. Jayaratne suggested that a mobile team may be commissioned for such recordings.
Arising from the work of the Sub-Committees the following were discussed.
v.Water and Sanitation Sub- Committee
No particular problems or issues were reported.
vi.Psychological and Spiritual Healing Sub- Committee
a.Extension of current project to other districts
Responding to a query by Ms.Kusum Wijesinghe, Mr.C.Jayaratne said that the “Psychological and spiritual healing” project is very likely to be extended to Hambantota and Matara. There are two potential donors and some time should be given to them to respond.
vii.Livelihood support, trade and micro-finance Sub- Committee
Mr.Shakila Wijewardena said that SEEDS will initially work with around 10 000 families. NOVIB has agreed to provide Rs.117 million. SEEDS has already started a rapid assessment process in the Galle and Matara districts. It is expected that SEEDS will work with another 10 000 families and a project proposal for this is being submitted to NOVIB who have expressed their willingness to provide additional support. The re-scheduling and writing off of loans will take about 2 years.
Housing can also be related to this project. A soft loan ranging from Rs.25 000/= to Rs.50 000/= could be given.
Commenting on this work, Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne said that he had observed the SEEDS staff at work on “rapid assessment process” and he was happy with what he had observed. He drew the attention to the fact that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is giving awards to women who suffered in many ways under the tsunami but who nevertheless gave leadership to develop their communities in spite of their own losses. He requested that the SEEDS work should be put on the web as soon as possible and also the NOVIB contribution acknowledged.
IV.Agenda Item : Any other matters
Mr. Peter Spirig, C.E.O./HOLCIM expressed his satisfaction at the progress being made. He said that he was pleased to note that action was being taken to provide assistance to people who need it. It was essential, he said, to give the affected people a perspective about their future.
H.E. the Ambassodor for Nepal said that he was impressed with the Sarvodaya work. On being posted to Sri Lanka, he was advised by his friends to meet Dr.A.T.Ariyaratne. He appreciated the democratic way in which Dr.Ariyaratne worked and wished him long life to continue to serve the people and the country.
The meeting terminated at about 12.30 p.m. It was decided that the next meeting of the Council be held on 05.03.2005 in the Conference Room at the Sarvodaya HQ, starting at 10.00 a.m.
NATIONAL AWAKENING COUNCIL MEETING
Date : 19.02.2005
Time : 10.00 a.m.
Venue : Conference Room, Damsak Mandira, Sarvodaya
5.Mr.Subasena de Silva
21.Ms. Udani Mendis