Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Dispatch #9 - 3rd Report from Poonochchimunai & Cheddipalayam/Batticalao

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1. Poonochchimunai
Drainage Channel:

On March 22, 2005, HHR staff in Batticaloa made attempts to acquire the draft plan of the drainage channel, which would serve to drain water from the village to the sea. Staff visited the Department of Irrigation to obtain the drainage plan of Poonochchimunai channel. After a failed attempt to meet with the engineer in charge of the plan, they eventually were able to discuss the plan with him. The engineer explained that he could not submit the plan, as there were alterations to be made to it that would be finished by 26 March.

On 26 March, the HHR staff went again to the engineer's office to obtain the plan of the proposed channel. They were able to obtain the plan despite the engineer's absence. The person speaking on his behalf said the engineer did not require any fees for preparing the plan, but requested a letter from HHR thanking the Department of Irrigation.

On 15 April, I.F. Xavier, Executive Director, HHR visited the office of the Deputy Director of Irrigation in the Batticaloa District. The aim of Mr. Xavier's visit was to discuss matters concerning the Poonochchimunai channel with irrigation engineer Mr. Rajagopal, who is in charge of the area in and around Poonochchimunai.

Mr. I. F. Xavier discussed the project with Mr. Rajagopal in its entirety. According to Mr. Rajagopal, the project is estimated to cost 48 million in Sri Lankan rupees. He suggested breaking the project into small components and sub-contracting it to different NGOs. He promised to give the plan on 18 April 2005. He also said that he would discuss this matter with the Deputy Director of Irrigation in the Batticaloa district.

Sewing school:

On 16th March 2005 the sewing school was started and named as "Poomunai Thaiyal Illam". The sewing schoolteacher, Ms. Valarmathi Kuberarajah, prepared a class curriculum. During this period, basic stitches and hems were taught to the students. HHR has prepared a register book for the sewing school students. The number of students has reduced as some of the students have rejoined the school and have been occupied with other employment. The class has been conducted from 1.30 pm. to 5.00 pm. for five days a week.

HHR has provided clothes and school supplies to the students. Necessary items like cloth (color poplin-27 yards), frames for making designs (18), colour silk thread (12 sets), and file covers were provided to the students on the request of the teacher.

A place in the temple premises has been selected to build a room to hold the classes. Preparations for the land agreement have been completed with the landowner.

The dates of April 11-14 were unanimously granted holy days and 14 April has been designated a Tamil New Year.

HHR staff also discussed students' responsibilities and the importance of class attendance.

Relief items from Lions Club:

On 26 March 2005 with the assistance of Mr. K. Kumarasekam from TRO Canada, the Lions club delivered some essential items such as clothes, children's food, biscuits, shoes and socks, to the people of Poonochchimunai. HHR staff took charge of the goods, and packed and delivered the articles to those in need in Poonochchimunai. On 9 April, while the relief items were delivered, the staff experienced problems from an individual who complained about the distribution of the goods.

Building a house for Yogamma Parameswaran

On 15 April at 4.00 p.m., the HHR group including I.F.Xavier (HHR Executive Director), and Mr. R. L. Kohilanath (Coordinator- HHR Documentation programme), visited Poonochchimunai. The group visited the shanty house of Ms.Yogamma Parameswaran, in the 5th ward Poonochchimunai. It was originally arranged by HHR to support her husband in masonry work classes at the technical college in Batticaloa. HHR undertook to support him throughout the training. Due to personal problems, he refused to attend the training for masonry. Ms. Parameswaran asked instead if HHR could provide minimal financial support to help rebuild their house destroyed by the tsunami. She was requested to provide the estimate for rebuilding the house. The next day she received masonry assistance for the estimate and submitted it to HHR. The details are outlined below:

DETAILS
AMOUNT
COST (SLRS.)
Stones- rubble
550
13750.00
Cement
10 packets
5500.00
Foundation stones
1 load tractor
3000.00
¾" stones
20 basins
400.00
10 mm wire
4 bar
540.00
13 foot wood
7
2100.00
Door frames
1
700.00
Window frames
1
500.00
Pins
1kg
100.00
Ply wood
80 feet
1000.00
Wood
75 feet
375.00
Fees for mason
5000.00
Fees for carpenter
2500.00
TOTAL
35465.00

General meeting at Poonochchimunai:

A meeting of the people of Poonochchimunai was arranged for the 17 April at 9.00am. The executive director of HHR chaired the meeting. The meeting was arranged to discuss the implication on the drainage channel. The high cost involved in the construction of the channel was the topic of discussion. There was a unanimous decision from the residents not to relocate themselves to another town.

The villagers insisted that HHR should find ways and means to help them to construct the channel. They also asked that roads connecting the different wards should be repaired. They sought assistance from HHR. It order to make this venture a success, they said, the occupants must come forward to perform Shramadana.

The executive director suggested forming a rural development society (RDS) and a women welfare society that may help to improve living conditions. They requested the construction of a community center whereby all activities from the town could take place.

It was agreed that a central spot must be selected and a building must be constructed to hold sewing training class, seminars and community discussions. When the question of availability of land was brought up, the residents recommended the temple premises. The building could be erected without any difficulty. The people of the temple of the area agreed that the temple land could be used to put up the building. It could serve to house the sewing school and a place to start a cooperative venture to start a sewing industry. They agreed to form the Rural Development Society on 17 April.

It was further discussed how sewing machines would be provided to the trainees in order for them to start their cooperative. A central spot would be selected for all of the women to work together and obtain the necessary income. All accepted this request and committed to the forming of the Rural Development Society.

The meeting came to an end after an inspection of the temple premises.

The Rural Development Society

On 17 April at 7.00 pm., the villagers officially formed the Rural Development Society (RDS). A president, vice president, secretary, assistant Secretary, treasurer, and accountant were named. In addition, fifteen other members joined the RDS.

President: M.Nagarajah

Assistant President: N.Srikanth

Secretary: K.Suresh

Assistant Secretary: M.Vasanthalingam

Treasurer: V.Pathbanathan

Accountant: M.Kamalakannan

Members:

1. M.Thiyagalingam

2. M.Sakthivel

3. A.Sivanathan

4. M.Navaskaran

5. S.Sunthar

6. K.Srivinayagan

7. K.Rasikanth

8. K.Thiruchelvan

9. S.Subas

10.V.Thevakanthan

11.K.Nagalingam

12.M.Sivanesan

13.M.Nagenthiran

14.S.Santhana

15.T.Muththu

2. Cheddipalayam

Beetle leaf farming

Mr. K. Ehamparam, who wished to do beetle leaf farming, has complained that at the moment he cannot do beetle leaf farming. This is due to the stems of the plants drying up and a fungus disease beginning on the leaves. He also claimed that the water seems salty and there is too much mud (as a result of the tsunami) mixed in the soil. As such he wanted to give up the beetle leaf cultivation and instead to take up vegetable business. He said that he requires the following to start his new venture: a push bicycle, a balance with the measuring rods and a container to take the vegetables on the bicycle. We told him to give a letter of his request briefly. He promised to give the same before Thursday on 28 March 2005.

Poultry

Mrs.Yogamalar Ananthan who had wished for a poultry farm could not follow through, as her father refused to give the land, citing it as an unsuitable place to start a poultry farm. She requested that if the assistance can be given, another venture could be undertaken. HHR advised her and her father to write a letter about the type of self-employment they will intend to do instead of the farm.

Washer (doby) families

Quotations for the push bicycles were obtained from Kattankudy and Batticaloa agents before the purchase of the push bicycles. In the quotation given by the Kattankudy agent for Lumala bicycles, the cost of one bicycle is Rs. 6800/-, Deduction 20%, 10 years warranty. Inquiries about costs of bicycles were made at the Fashon House, Batticaloa with the cost of one bicycle being Rs.6800/- and 10 years warranty.

On 22 March the Batticaloa staff went to Kattankudy to obtain the written quotation for the purchase of Lumala bicycles. The agent promised to give a bicycle at the price of Rs.6780.00 each.

In April the HHR staff went to Cheddipalayam to hand over bicycles to the families, but as they were not available, the distribution was postponed.

Grocery shop

Mr. Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy, who will be running a grocery shop, reported that 80% of the work has been completed. We told him to complete the building construction before he seeks further assistance.

Fishing

HHR has purchased fishing nets to give to Mr.Manikam Veerasingam and Mr.Muththaiyah Sangaralingam for Rs.20,405. The same was given to Mr.Muththaiyah Sangaralingam on 02 April 2005.

Claiming lands

On 16 April 2005 the executive director, the coordinator for documentation program and the Batticaloa staff met the target group at Cheddipalayam and had a discussion with them. The tsunami victims at Cheddipalayam, whose lands were occupied by the STF police (Special Task Force), were asked to send an appeal to the HHR office reclaiming their land.