Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Dispatch #12 - Tsunami Relief Project

Originally published
Students at the Poonochchimunai sewing school are progressing with their training. HHR staff visits them regularly to see their progress and assists them in their needs. However, we face a few challenges in forming the cooperative society.


During this period the students learned to make tight skirts and punjabi dresses. They also learned to stitch over women's coats and nightdresses for adult women. After completing their stitching lessens they also learnt some fabric painting techniques, which they can use to make their products better.

Attendance and Enrollment

Eleven students continued to study sewing successfully. The classes are held every weekday, except from the 20th-22nd of August and the 15th-18th of September, when the teacher goes on a pilgrimage to Katharagama and Ms. Kubendrarajah, and the owner closes the house. The missed classes are made-up by holding classes on Saturdays and Sundays.


A box of gum bottles, elastic, 28.5 yards of material to stitch punjabi dresses, buttons, cutting sheets, material for the bottom of punjabi (16.5 yards), material to stitch over coats and 33 yards of poplin material, costing around Rs. 18,639.75 were supplied to the sewing class.

Setting up a cooperative

HHR Batticaloa staff visited the Divisional Secretariat in order to obtain the common land at Poonochchimunai. The Divisional Secretary said the application would be sent to the Provincial council for approval and that the permit would be issued on receipt of approval.

Discussions were made with the students regarding opening a tailoring centre and selling pillow covers, bed sheets etc. They can take samples of them to shops and obtain orders. For that, some students said that it is impossible for them to do that while 5 students were willing to try. One of the main reasons for which they are hesitant to start the enterprise is that their husbands may not allow them to go for work once they get married. Possibilities of renting a building on a temporary basis were analyzed. After a one-day discussion we arrived at the following decision:

It was discussed that after completion of the sewing training, all of them shall do tailoring in a cooperative basis, open a stall and sell their products at the stall. The following students were selected for the purpose:

Accounts - Kavitha

Marketing -- Chitrangani

Store keeper - Manchu

Distributing clothes to shops -- Vasanthan

HHR director also told them that a training class on how to work cooperatively will be conducted provided the students request this. A letter of consent from the students that they would work on a cooperative basis for about two years was requested. HHR bought 10 pillow covers from the students as an incentive to promote their venture.

After the classes a tour of students was planned but due to unavoidable circumstances it was cancelled.

Poonochchimunai Channel

Parasuraman attended the meeting of the Community Protection Network and when discussed about the construction of drains at Poonochchimunai, Mr. V.Pratheeban from the Municipal Council said that this project could be implemented through the Municipal Council from the funds that have been allocated to construct drains under the Unnichchai Tank Renovation Scheme.


Shop of Vinayagamoorthy:

Vinayagamoorthy said that he had erected a boutique, that he purchased kerosene oil, coconuts, soap etc., out of the sum of Rs.5000 given to him and sold them; however, he had spent that income of Rs.2000 on felling the margosa trees that were standing on his compound and that he has no money to purchase any more things again. We observed there was no trace of sale of any of the items referred to above and therefore we informed him to go ahead and purchase more things and we would pay the balance.

Vyramuthu Yogarajah

Vyramuthu Yogarajah who's wife and two daughters were provided with Rs.100,000- His daughter Habsalini is attending a programme where 30 children who were affected by the Tsunami were being given psychological treatment by the volunteers of the SLRC. She was also taken to the Kaluwanchikudy hospital for medical examinations.

12 washer families

Mamangam Sinnathamby, one of the HHR's beneficiaries among the Cheddipalayam washer families, has sold the iron moneybox that HHR had given to him. When asked about this he said that he had bought a second-hand one in place of it.

The washer families said they have been charging Rs.10 per cloth for washing and ironing prior to the tsunami and that the charge was increased now. There were 8 washer men working for 350 families and were in receipt of an average monthly income of about Rs.3000. Now there are only about 100 families engaging the services of the washer families and as a result the monthly income is reduced to an average of about Rs.1000 to Rs.1500. This is because many clients are in IDP camps and the services of the washer families are not utilized as before, therefore reducing their income. They further said that as the prices of things used for washing had increased, they had to increase the service charges that are Rs.20 per sarong, trouser, shirt etc. and Rs.15 for smaller ones. At times the charges are reduced based on the low income of the customers.


Fishing implements supplied to two fishermen were being used by the fishermen in their trade.

Fishing labourers

As per the request from fishing labourers the HHR director and staff visited the Cheddipalayam village and met 75 families engaged in fishing and other odd jobs. HHR has collected all the personal information about these families. When discussed with them, we were able to gather the following information:

1. All these people are employed as labourers for years.

2. They are very badly affected by war and by the Tsunami.

3. They have received =BD kg soya meat dhal given by the STF as relief. When they made inquiries the authorities concerned have said that they have not lost any implements used in their trade.

4. Three labourers are engaged in a boat. The catch of fish is sold and the proceeds divided into two. One half goes to the Mudalali (wage payers) and the balance half is again divided into two. Of the latter, one portion is set off for fuel, depreciation, etc. and the other portion is divided among the labourers. Accordingly a day's income of the labourer is about Rs.50- 500. Therefore they need some sort of help to function on their own.

5. There are 32 mudalalies. Two boats and engines have been given to two mudalalies. Besides, seven boats and eight engines have been given to Mudalalies after the tsunami. Only the engines available now are used in the trade. 8 boats out of the 32 boats were totally damaged. Though the balance 32 was partly damaged, they cannot be depended upon and therefore the profession is affected.

6. All of the fishing labourers want to do fishing and need boats, engines and nets (cost more than four lakhs) but if we can't provide them all, some of them can change their livelihood to fish business, farming, sewing, mason work and maintaining a grocery shop etc to begin with. They said if three persons are provided with one boat, nets, and an engine that's enough and they can function as a cooperative society. They said that if we give assistance to 10 groups they can provide a sum to the society from their earnings and from the savings assistance can be provided to others. They also said, for example, that they might need a motor bike to do fish business which would cost more than one small allotment of Sri Lankan rupees.

7. They said that even though they did not have any boats before the Tsunami, they lost all of their savings and property in the Tsunami but did not get any relief assistance.

8. The fishing labourers have got together and formed a society. They have to write a constitution and register their society and requested HHR's assistance for that.

9. They wanted the new society:

1. To find alternative jobs for labourers

2. Each of the 75 fishing labourers to obtain necessary fishing implements and to operate individually or to form groups of 4 each

3. If there are 2 or 3 persons in a family engaged in fishing, such families shall be provided with one boat, one engine and one set of nets that is a boat to one person.

10. The fishing labourers requested that there are girls confined to their homes after finishing their education and it would be useful if they know some sewing. They gave us a list of 40 girls who wants to learn sewing.

HHR informed them that we can help them to form the Society and also told them, our funds are limited and therefore we can inform the INGOs to help them. HHR also promised to give sewing training to the girls who want to learn.

Some of the fishing labourers express their past and the present situation:

1. One of the victim namely Sinnathambi Sivalingam said that he had a poultry farm at home and it was fully destroyed by the tsunami, but he has not received any assistance yet. At the same time some people received three boats and many bicycles through influence.

2. Krishnapillai Vijayaletchumy said that her husband Krishnapillai were caught in the tsunami and died after 22 days. She has two daughters and two sons, and she can get them work in the farm. She said a land available alongside the tank can be utilized for farming and that she needs help to cultivate vegetables such as brinjol, ladies' fingers, leaf vegetables etc.

3. Kanapathipillai Nesathurai said that he has three daughters and one son. His betal shop was burnt down by the Muslim people at Eravur on 24.01.1985 and that he sustained a heavy loss as a result. He further said that he was arrested by the STF on 16.01.1986 at Cheddipalayam when the village was rounded up by them, that he was detained and tortured at the STF camp. Kallady and that he is now working as a fishing labourer and that the income derived is hardly sufficient to maintain his family.

4. S.Gopalapillai said, "I was running a small tea kiosk near the sea shore and everything which was there has been washed away by the recent tsunami and I am now left with nothing. As a result I am now finding it difficult to meet the expenses of my children's education." All others supported that he be provided with assistance to start his tea stall as every one of them would benefit by his tea stall.

Problems in rebuilding the houses:

5. Some of the Cheddipalayam people complained to HHR that Sariram Organization has built temporary houses for the people affected by the Tsunami in this area. The government is to pay Rs.500000 to each family to build permanent houses and a sum of Rs.25, 000 has already been paid in advance to put up foundations. World Vision is also making arrangements to build permanent houses. Grama Niladaries have overlooked certain persons for the reasons that they have not registered themselves when they had been in welfare centers during the tsunami disaster. They appear to be the most affected persons.


HHR visited 65 families of Manalchenai and discussed problems that they had. 30 families who came from Tissamaharamaya, Katharagama, Lunugala and Monaragala etc, were displaced during the disturbances in 1977, took residence in Sangamankandy village and were displaced again during the disturbances in 1990 and came to live in Manalchenai. They said that all the crops and cattle have been destroyed by the recent Tsunami. About 18 families here were affected and the source of income of the others was affected. These families were provided with the relief items like relief stamps, cash Rs.5000 etc. granted by the Government. The IOM provided temporary houses to 18 families.

1. Their main source of income is Chena cultivation and home gardening. They also engaged in brick-making, fishing and sewing.

2. Wells for home gardening and toilets appear to be the very important requirement here and they want the authorities concerned to take steps to have their source of income uplifted. It is to be noted that they have executed declaration deeds for the respective lands.

3. The Manalchenai people who came from the hill country have been discriminated by other villagers. Some organizations provided sewing machines but the President of the Rural Development Society who is from Komari gave all the sewing machines to his relatives and Manalchenai people were left with nothing. When the CARE organization came forward to effect repairs to the roads, that was prevented and the work was started from the front of the village. When this discrimination of the tsunami-affected families was brought to light through the newspapers, organizations came forward and extended their help, but not to Manalchenai people. They had given the relief items to the people who were affected by the tsunami at Komari and had come to live in huts erected in the main road. When inquired about it, the reply happened was "Your area has already been provided with'. Further, all the things coming to Manalchenai are being prevented from distributed to Manalchenai people. They have organized them into a new society.

When inquired about the present RDS the following were revealed:

1. The right of holding membership in the Rural development Society is denied

2. They are being discriminated against because of their origins

3. If the Rural Development Society needs any help from any other sources, they obtain the names of the people of the Manalchenai village but such help never reach the proper people

4. No meetings are held regularly and no reports are given

5. No minutes of accounts or future programmes are submitted

6. The president helps people whom he likes and his association with the people is not satisfactory. Relief measures supplied by the government are distributed as the president sees fit. Therefore the 65 families living here have decided to form a rural development society for themselves and are taking steps to have the same registered

The people of Manalchenai have requested HHR's help:

1. To obtain permits in respect of the lands in which the 65 families are living

2. To grant incentives for the basic requirements of dwelling houses, wells, toilets, source of income, etc.

3. To construct roads and bridges for transport

4. To put up a building for a nursery school and a building for primary school from year one to year five

5. To appoint a separate Grama Sevaga (GS) for the Manalchenai village, because the current GS, Mr. Sivanesan, never visits their village and does not attend the office of the Divisional Secretary. The DS is a gentleman from the Muslim community and the GS is the only Tamil person working there. It is said that the DS is of the view that there can be a misunderstanding between the two communities if action is taken to deal with the GS or to transfer him out. They also said that the GS has reported that this village was not affected and that one or half bottle of arrack or money should be given to the GS to get a help from him. They further said that even after giving money or arrack the GS does not do the needful at time. He reported that these people are not affected by Tsunami. They also said "We took refuge in the welfare camp having been affected by the Tsunami. The GS of that area came and informed us that we cannot stay there as we were from the Divisional Secretary's Division of Pottuvil and to go and find refuge elsewhere. Name of the GS is one Ramani. We did not have a GS for Manalchenai. We did not know where to go and how to find a place" Therefore, they need a GS for their village.

6. To get electricity supply to the area as they very often face the danger of attacks by the wild elephants

The immediate needs are:

1. Toilets for 15 persons

2. Drinking water wells for 20 persons

3. Common wells -02

4. A sewing training centre for 27 youth

5. The women in this village also shall be permitted to participate in the Rural Development society

HHR has promised them to build two common wells and 10 toilets. The people said that they would give the manual support such as digging pits, carrying bricks and cement blocks, mixing cement etc. And HHR also said that it would provide sewing training for the youth who are willing to learn sewing.


There are 306 families in this village. Most of them were people affected by war and Tsunami. There are 36 women who have lost their husbands during the war, 8 children who lost their parents, and all the people here are displaced many times during the war. They are engaged in fishing, running kiosks, seasonal work, odd jobs etc. The people said that this village was discriminated by the government earlier, and also this village was badly affected by the past war.

Due to the village being surrounded by water (lagoon) the people living there are unable to move out to escape harassment by the army, CID officers etc. The aforesaid units enter the village, arrest people on suspicion, torture them and some are killed. Extortion also takes place to release certain persons in custody. Many males in this village spend most of their time in the shrubs. It is also to be noted that people were arrested irrespective of their sex or age.

Houses of these people had been washed away completely by the tsunami. Many boats and fishing nets were destroyed, the lake was polluted, and cultivation lands have been spoilt. As Nasivantheevu is in a war prone zone the youth club has to struggle hard to get assistance.

The Nasivantheevu people said that they need the following:

(1) Training in repairing mechanized boats for youths

(2) Lessons in driving, particularly tractor driving for youths

(3) Financial assistance to women who have lost their husbands during the war and during the

Tsunami for them to find self-employment.

(4) Job opportunities for those who were subjected to torture while being in police or army custody,

(5) Vocational training etc., to those family members wounded and disabled due to war.

HHR staff collected personal information of 144 families who were badly affected by war and affected by Tsunami. They need assistance to do the following ventures.

Goat keeping -- 24 persons

Rearing fowls-18 persons

Small-scale boutiques -- 06 persons

Self industries like weaving cadjan -- 06 persons

Fishing -- 55 persons

Fish vending -- 01 person

Home gardening -03 persons

Masonry -02 persons

Carpentry -02 persons

Sewing -02 persons

23 youths wanted to undergo training in boat repairs and 26 wanted to learn to drive vehicle (tractors).

One man and the fisheries inspector have jointly taken steps to supply fishing boats, fishing nets and other implements to those 55 fishermen.

HHR told them that it will help them to get youth training, and to form the women's association so that they can get help to widows.

Boat repairing

Parasuraman consulted with the cooperative/ Fisheries inspectors, making inquiries from technical colleges to find out whether such facilities are available. He made enquiries about the training sponsored by GTZ. The Save the Children organization has undertaken the responsibility of selecting trainees and gave permission to contact GTZ in this connection and given the particulars of the 23 youth. They wanted these youth to be between the ages 16 and 22 years and be the persons affected by war and tsunami.

Parasuraman also inquired from the fishery and water resources training centre. Selected the persons willing and sent them for the interview. 10 of them were selected to attend the interview at the Fisheries training centre at Kallady for the course of training in boat repairs conducted by WUSC.

HHR also assisted the Nasivantheevu youth to hold discussions with the GTZ in order to decide what they want to learn.

Tractor driving

When inquired CTB depot, Batticaloa they informed that,:

1. They have ceased providing driver training to other institutions for the reason that they had to face immense problems when they conducted Driver training classes in collaboration with NGOs.

2. They will enroll only ten persons for three month course.

3. The amount required to provide training to a single person is Rs.6500.00 and if driving license is to be obtained a sum of Rs.10500 is to be deposited.

and there fore, they are not in a position to provide training in collaboration with the other institutions.

Parasuraman obtained details of the place where driver training can be given to those from Nasivantheevu. i.e. Rs.9500 for a person to train himself to drive an A grade vehicle and Rs.8000/- for a person for rest of the vehicles. Training is given at Pushpa Driver Training Centre and Natheera Driver training centre. A person to undergo training to drive A grade vehicles, he should have completed 21 years of age, and for other vehicles he should have completed 19 years of age.


There are 1300 families in Thuraineelavanai. There are four grama sevaga divisions, four fishermen societies and four rural development societies. 330 families are engaged in fishing trade and all of them were affected by Tsunami. Farmers were also badly affected, because the cultivable lands have turned saline. There are many affected by the continuous war for the last 20 years.

The people in Thuraineelavanai said that they received a very low quality food items and even when they complained to the authorities there was no response.

Essential needs of the inhabitants here are:

1. Purifying the lake

85% of the people here are engaged in fishing. Due to the recent Tsunami the entire lagoon here is filled with all sort of garbage, rots etc. and as a result they are unable to use their nets to catch fish in the lagoon. They are unable to cast our nets because the lake is full of barbed wire from the Army camp fences, fence posts, broken tree branches, thorny bushes etc. washed in by the tidal waves of the tsunami.

2. Digging wells for drinking water

3. Constructing toilets

4. Rehabilitation of the three tanks there in existence and rearing fish

5. Supplying fishing implements

6. Assistance to the 250 widows to earn their living

7. Giving a helping hand to those engaged in various other trades to uplift their economical situation etc. Accordingly the families of the fisher -- folk living here can be formed a focus group in order to implement the scheme.

HHR collected personal information of these families with regard to those affected by Tsunami and war and left out without any help.

HHR decided to write a report on the damages of the lagoon and help finding agencies that can clean the lagoon and form a widow's society through which they can get loans and get different assistance from other sources.

Some of the widows that HHR spoke to are:

Nesathurai Nesammah said: "Four of us are jointly catching a small variety of fish called 'Iyamasi" and shrimps in the lagoon. We sell them and utilize the proceeds to maintain our families. I request that I may be helped to run a small scale boutique."

64 year-old Murugiah Alagammah said: "I have two daughters who are unmarried. One is 34 years old and the other is 18 year old. My husband is dead. Both my daughter can sew. Therefore, I may be helped to get a sewing machine which will be helpful for my daughters to do tailoring and earn some money."

Kathiramalai Kalamani

Kathiramalai Kalamani's 22 year-old husband Thangarajah Thatchanamoorthy and about another ten from their village were taken away from their respective houses on 03.06.1990 by the army unit called the Green Tigers (Kola Koty) created by Premadasa. He did not return home until now. She said, "As we got married by falling in love, my parents have disconnected my relationship. I have one boy and a girl. I am only 33 years-old. I am now living in my mother's house and I am running a small boutique. The income I derive from the boutique is hardly sufficient to meet the expenses on the education and for the maintenance of two children. She was affected by the tsunami on 26.12.05 while she was at the Kalmunai Market. She has lost goods worth about Rs.5000 in her shop. She had been displaced and had taken refuge in a school at Ampara and had returned home on the next day. When I went to the Kalmunai police Station to make a statement in this connection, they said they cannot record our statement now and they were recording the complaints with regard to the deaths only." She did not make a complaint to anybody else in this connection because the GS was also affected and he did not record the statements.

Ranjan Uthayakumari

Ranjan Uthayakumari's uncle approached HHR and told that Uthayakumari's mother had died in 1998. Uthayakumari is the eldest of three children, who were being looked after by their grandmother Rasamanickam. She too was caught in the tsunami when she had gone to sell betel leaves in Maruthamunai and had died. As a result Uthayakumari is mentally affected and suffering from a kind of heart disease and has now been admitted to the National Hospital for treatment at ward No.36. No one appears to have gone to see her for the past three months. Sanathani from Colombo HHR visited her in the hospital and made sure that she is been taken care of. Their uncle is looking after two other children at present. The said uncle is said to be educated but unemployed and doing odd jobs on daily paid basis. She was discharged from the hospital during the 1st week of September and requested to come after six months. HHR has provided her Rs.1000 to go to the Teaching hospital of Batticaloa to take the necessary medication.


There are 304 families in Periyaneelavanai. HHR staff met the Grama Niladhari and discussed matters with her (Navamani). The people affected by the tsunami were supplied with relief items, but it seems only partially. The residents and the displaced people are on uncertain terms. The people affected by the war, from places like Mandur, Ninthavur, Unit 40 etc., had taken up residence on lands closer to the seashore and they were the people who were very badly affected by loss of life and property. People from adjoining villages and districts are enjoying the benefits primarily.

1. About 63 persons had died due to the tsunami and most of them were women and children. Some women had died by jumping back in to waters as all their clothes on them had been washed away and they were ashamed to face the people bare-bodied.

2. We spoke to one woman who had four children, three girls and one boy. All three girls had died and consequently her husband has become a drunkard. She also appears to have been mentally affected. She told us that the villagers are abusing and inducing her to die. When we spoke to another, he said that his house has been completely damaged by the tsunami, that his son is missing and he went up to Colombo in search of him and that he intended go to Karadiyanaru as he received information that his son is there, in a Boys Home.

3. HHR collected personal information of the families who lost their family members.

4. HHR staff also went to the other villages recognized by the AP intern Sarosh Syed such as Ollikulam A, B, and C, Sigaram and Manmunai and collected information. These people are badly affected by war as well as the Tsunami. From the people of these areas we came to know that an organization called SEED is providing necessary assistance and the people wanted any help to come through this organization.

Visit by AP director

During this period AP director Mr.Iain Guest visited HHR and its project areas and programmes.