Lanka’s tsunami aid to Japan hits snag

The planned presentation tomorrow of a cheque for one million US dollars (Rs. 109 million), as Sri Lanka’s symbolic but generous contribution to help Japan after the earthquake and the devastating tsunami, has been postponed.

It was to be handed over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Japanese Ambassador Kunio Takahashi.
No reason was given for the delay but a source at the Presidential Secretariat said it would be “re-scheduled” without giving any further details. The Japanese embassy was tight-lipped about the offer saying the matter was under “negotiation”.The Government earlier announced that a donation of US $ one million would be made to Japan, one of Sri Lanka’s leading donor countries. The Government also offered to send a 150-strong search-and-rescue team that would include military personnel to help in the rescue of thousands of Japanese still missing.

Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera and External Affairs Ministry Additional Secretary Ranjit Uyangoda met the Japanese Ambassador Takahashi this week. Dr. Jayasundera handed over to the Japanese envoy a note officially informing him of the Government’s commitment. Government sources said Sri Lanka’s acting Ambassador Esala Weerakoon, also handed over a similar note to the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

On Friday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the Japanese Embassy at Gregory’s Road to sign the condolence book. He expressed the government’s deepest sympathies for the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Although the government originally planned to send a 150-strong search-and-rescue contingent, the offer is under re-consideration now.

The Japanese government has pointed out that such groups were being allowed into their country on what they call “self sufficient missions.” No assistance in any form was being provided to them except clearance of visa and official procedures.

They were expected to arrange their own transport to affected locations. Countries sending in search-and-rescue teams have taken their own equipment, food and found makeshift accommodation in tents pitched by them. They were also paying for their fuel. Weather conditions have changed making the affected areas colder. In addition, the non availability of fuel in the affected areas has also impacted on search-and-rescue missions.

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