Action beyond immediate relief
The loss of life, the damage to property and the injury to persons caused by the unprecedented tidal wave disaster require action beyond the mere collection of funds, food and water, essential utensils and other items, in order to alleviate the suffering of those affected, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) said in a statement last week.

It said the CCC is liaising with the Ministry of Public Ordinance and Internal Security and the Tourist Board to create a website, which will contain information of displaced persons, presently accommodated at refugee camps and other sites, facilities, such as e-mail, SMS or telecommunication, through which messages may be conveyed to them and the names of the deceased.

The proposed website will, therefore, be developed without delay with whatever information the Chamber may be able to gather, although the records may not always be complete. The website will be regularly updated, every twelve hours, and will be a dynamic database. It will be launched today with the web address

The Chamber is working in affiliation with Affno to create this website. Information gathering and the updating of the website is being handled by Chandra Vithanage (Phone 2422156) and Suresh Pathirana (Phone 2324573) and Sushani Wijeyatillake (Phone 2422156). Affno will be in overall charge of the website.

Relief work co-ordination and distribution
A key challenge facing the government and NGO's is the co-ordination of relief work and the distribution of goods being collected by numerous organizations and hastily mobilized civic groups. Some guidance in this regard is imperative to eliminate waste and to optimize efficacy.

The high priority areas are - water, sanitation, food, shelter and health. The needs list is - dry rations and canned food items; drinking water; clothing; bedding (blankets, mats, pillows); medicines and medical supplies and temporary shelter.

Collection of funds should be restricted to recognized organizations, which are subject to audit by the Auditor General or a reputed firm of Chartered Accountants. Establishing internal control systems at the outset is critical for proper accountability of donations, the chamber said.

The public should be cautioned immediately by a government communiqué conveyed through the media, against supporting spurious groups, which are deceitfully collecting funds, exploiting the surge of public sympathy.

Protecting tourists
Reports of distressed tourists being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals have caused much concern. Help desks for tourists should be set up at Police Stations and stern and effective action against those who harass tourists must be imposed to help protect them. Members of the CCC will be encouraged to accommodate tourists in their homes till conditions return to some degree of normalcy.

The most reprehensible act, apart from the exploitation of hapless tourists, is the looting of hotels, shops and homes. To immediately control this, regulations should be introduced to severely punish those who have resorted to looting or found with looted goods. The process of apprehending and prosecuting them should be simplified. The Ministry of Public Ordinance and Internal Security and the Inspector General of Police will be addressed on this matter.

Re-construction and rehabilitation
This is an important phase, which should immediately follow the provision of urgent relief to the affected. Towards this end the CCC proposes a planned approach for rehabilitation, through the engagement of relevant experts and professional organizations. A well-planned settlement programme, to replace all unauthorized structures, which could be potentially perilous, by safe and aesthetically desirable buildings, should be initiated. This will contribute to the rebuilding of the tourist industry and prevent displaced people from resettling in unauthorized and unsafe buildings.

The CCC website intends focusing on an appeal for international support for re-construction and rehabilitation.

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