Ratnatunga visits Arugam Bay six months after the tsunami to discover
that business is picking up
Slow relief but surfers are back
A ghost town after the tsunami six months ago, Arugam Bay was very
much alive at 10 p.m. when we drove in on our way to a guest house
at Kudakalli, two km further south. Many tourists had returned to
this surfing paradise and were on the streets walking from their
hotels to cybercafes and the many bars and restaurants which had
performance was entertaining a large audience near a newly constructed
Buddhist shrine in the town centre. The Pottuvil to Arugam Bay bridge,
part of which had been washed away in the tsunami had been reconstructed
with the aid of the Engineering Regiments of the Indian Army Task
Force. An Indian flag was hung on the side in gratitude. I wonder
how long this temporary repair which allows a single vehicle to
be on the bridge at one time, will need to serve the community.
Tsunami Beach Hotel sign had been revised and put back up. The owners
cashing in on all the media publicity after the tsunami had even
registered in March 2005 an internet domain tsunamihotel.com.
at Daya Fernando's guest house we surprised the caretakers since
they had not got the message about our arrival. Since I had not
slept overnight near the east coast for almost 30 years, I got up
an hour before sunrise and walked out with Daya's three dogs to
protect me and show me the way.
surf was up but fairly calm. Starlight and a crescent moon illuminated
the many shells that had washed ashore on to the beach. A couple
was beachcombing a rich bounty. I too picked up some beautiful large
shells and coral.
next visit was to Panama, a small Sinhala community 10 km south
of Arugam bay. We went to the residence of Chandrasena who was the
secretary to the local Pradeshiya Sabha (community council). It
was he who had compiled the list of 17 houses which had been badly
damaged in Panama by the tsunami and had sent out the appeal with
photographs for funding. All off them had already been rebuilt by
Thawalama using funding from Sri Lanka Tsunami Appeal Committee
of Western Australia. I also witnessed the handing over of ten carts
with pneumatic tyres to cultivators affected by the tsunami from
this same committee.
cultivators of Panama also lost over 350 acres of paddy land, when
areas such as Halawa, close to the sea were flooded by tsunami water.
These paddy fields will remain barren for many years till the salt
washes away. Though they have been promised alternate land under
the Meeyangoda tank, which is to be restored with funding from the
Rotary Club of Kandy, the cultivators now fear that this too is
another promise that will never materialize. Most NGOs who have
visited the village of Panama have requested the villagers to fill
application forms, but have failed to provide the promised assistance.
Nearly all of the help to reconstruct and revitalise the community
has come from private organizations which have raised the required
funds in Lanka and abroad.
government represented by the Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation
(TAFREN) has still not made any positive impact on reconstruction
in the community. All that the residents have seen are the numerous
reports and advertisements in the media of what is being planned,
Those affected were wondering where all the claimed foreign aid
had got tied up.
south of Arugam Bay, the village of Ulla, within the 200-metre buffer
zone was totally destroyed by the tsunami. TAFREN has thus far failed
to provide the affected families with alternate property outside
the buffer zone, for them to commence rebuilding their houses.
NGOs who want to help these unfortunate people to rebuild their
houses are being discouraged as a result. TAFREN unlike most NGOs
allocates the task, signs a MoU and waits. For example the Sinhapura
Sinhala Vidyalaya in Ulla near Arugam Bay was totally destroyed
by the tsunami, even though it is beyond the 200 metre buffer zone.
The Italian Civil Protection Mission has signed a MoU to complete
construction work in six months. It is now six months since the
tsunami and they have yet to commence work on reconstruction.
Thawalama Development Foundation that wrote to the President in
this connection, requesting her to reallocate this school to them,
as they are in a position to find the necessary funds for the purpose,
have been informed by TAFREN that this is not possible.
state aid, private aid has in many cases been made on racial and
religious divisions. A Tamil resident from Jaffna I spoke to said
that although many who didn't have any fishing boats have received
one, he who had lost seven boats in the tsunami has still to get