There was also not much visible change in Hambantota town besides the fact that most debris had been cleared.
We were very eager to visit the development area where the government had promised 6,000 new houses. And sure enough there were 900 identical houses already built.
Again, without considering the special needs of the people. Singhales built different than Tamils; Tamils different than Muslims. They had lived peacefully together before the tsunami, though they had lived in different townships. At the new housing scheme the houses had been obviously given to the families without considering their ethnic group.
We talked to people already living in those houses, despite the fact that most of them did not have water or electricity yet. We heard unusually open words and we were quite surprised to hear, that the government had not built one of the houses.
The locals knew from the beginning that the government would only donate the land. Or should one say, they decided where the people had to be resettled and the rest was completely done by different NGOs.
Nobody was able to answer our question: how can the government give land to their own people and declare this as a big donation?
We stayed at the Rest House in Hambantota and met the District Manager of the French Red Cross there. He was on an inspection tour for a couple of days and it was not possible to get one straight answer from him. There would be sufficient funds but it would be delicate to deal with the government. It would take some more time, and so, on and on ………….
Much more interesting was a talk later on with the wife of his employee, a French couple that had worked for the Red Cross the last couple of months in the district of Hambantota. She started every other sentence with the words: “It better never get public, but…………”
We were fully aware that reconstructions to that extent were a huge task. On the other hand, shouldn’t it be possible to get some concessions from the government in exchange for the immense amount of money from the NGOs? Why were these organizations not able to take actions against bureaucracy and corruption? Our only conclusion was that there must be some kind of profit on their part as well.
After returning home the end of October, we contacted the SLAASC (Sri Lanka America Association of Southern California) who built the house donated to Sifaya.
Despite the facts: that there was a report with pretty pictures on the SLAASC website about a concluded and successful relief project in Hambantota; as well as the appeal for new members and donations; there was no way we could get a response from either the President nor one of the six members of the Board. Only the webmaster wrote back twice, emphasizing that he was not involved in the organization in any way, besides his work on their website.