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Man-Made Disaster

In Sri Lanka, money abounds, but fighting halts tsunami reconstruction.
2007This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Amid the bloodshed and devastation in Sri Lanka's troubled north and east, renewed fighting on this Indian Ocean island has claimed another unintended casualty.

The ecumenical Action by Churches Together (ACT) group has extended significant funds to build hundreds of houses for those left homeless by the tsunami two years ago. But tsunami reconstruction has completely stopped in the army-controlled Jaffna peninsula, the rebel-controlled Vanni region, and the restive east.

"There is no way churches can go ahead with tsunami reconstruction," Milton Solomon, a senior pastor of the Jaffna diocese of the Church of South India, told CT in February.

The government has banned transport of construction material, such as cement and iron bars, to areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The group has waged a bloody campaign since 1983 for autonomy for ethnic Tamil areas in the north and east.

Norway brokered a 2002 ceasefire, which halted the death toll near 65,000. But the fragile truce collapsed after Mahinda Rajapakse won the 2005 presidential election with the support of Sinhala nationalist parties. Re-newed fighting has claimed more than 4,000 lives.

The crucial A9 highway that runs through the LTTE-controlled Vanni region, the only land route to the Jaffna peninsula, has been closed by the government since August 2006. Practically banned by the government from entering rebel areas, charity workers have halted their reconstruction work.

"In Jaffna, forget about construction material. Even the prices of essential food items have shot up by ten times" since the highway closed, Solomon said.

Churches have "now forgotten the tsunami reconstruction targets and are trying to help" the half-million people on the Jaffna ...

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