Friday, January 28, 2005

Tsunami Relief Fund

Dear Rasika:

Please find the following link to the website of TSVP’s Tsunami Relief Fund initiative:
For comments, contributing articles or listing fundraising events, please email
Make a contribution at the online donation centre:

The Student Volunteer Program (TSVP) is a Toronto-based sustainable development organisation that participates in rehabilitation and redevelopment activities in various countries. It is exclusively managed by students and recent graduates interested in discovering, learning and participating in international development to effect global change. Its primary sectors of work include Information and Communication Technologies, Health, and Education. To date, the organisation has placed 22 volunteers on international internships most of them in Sri Lanka and has a membership of nearly 350. For more information on its projects and activities, please visit us online at This group was founded by Canadian students of Sri Lankan origin.


The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Urgent request for help from Library of Life and The IFRC

Dear Rasikaw,


I have been deeply touched by your coverage of the recent tragedy in Asia. The way you have helped to make the outside world aware of the plight of the Sri Lankan people, is highly commendable.


I am contacting you with a request for your kind help from the Library of Life; a website ( whose aim is to compile the life stories of millions of people around the world, thereby creating the world’s first universal record of life that lasts forever. The website raises funds for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and in this time of need they have asked us to create a living memorial to all the victims of this tragedy. This will be done through photographs, text, film, sound and scanned documents on the site.


The Library of Life, in association with the IFRC, is inviting all those whose lives have been affected by the tragedy to create a free memorial to commemorate their loved ones, or post their own experiences as a record for all future generations. We have also set up an online ‘Tsunami Book of Condolence’, which we are inviting the public to sign and express their feelings on this terrible disaster.


In order for this great humanitarian project to be successful it is essential that we have as much information and reach as many people as possible. We therefore, kindly request that you give us your assistance by contributing to the Library of Life through posting your experiences and opinions directly on our site, or allowing us to put some information from your site on our own. Furthermore, if you would be prepared to put a message on your blog about us and a link from your blog to our website, that would be wonderful. In return we will happily give you a reciprocated link from our own site to yours, as well as a complementary membership.   


Please have a look at our site and contact me at and let me know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.


Kind regards,


Henry Hardy



Henry Hardy

Library of Life

46 Berkeley Square

London W1J 5AT

Tel: 0207 598 4063

Fax: 0207 598 4071


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Thoughts of technology in the wake of a tragedy


Thoughts of technology in the wake of a tragedy

Sanjana Hattotuwa*

"Public calamity is a mighty leveller" - Edmund Burke

On Boxing Day 2004, a tsunami hit my country. In a matter of hours, over 30,000 were dead, thousands more missing and 1% of the population displaced. We had never seen devastation on this scale – the human cost of the civil war over 25 years was itself made trivial in comparison, a ‘mere’ 65,000 in 25 years of conflict.
Recovering from a late night office party the night before, I was at home when I first heard the news. The full scale of the devastation was only dawned later on in the week, when the body count kept rising by thousands each day, and the dead had to be unceremoniously buried for fear of disease.

Beyond the gaze of the global media, this is a tragedy that hits the soul of a country. Its poorest communities are the majority of the dead or missing. Those who have survived, wish they had not – entire communities, villages, livelihoods have been lost.

It is impossible to articulate fully the scale of the disaster, or the breadth of its destruction. It is, by extension, impossible to map or quantify the toll of the tsunami on the communities it has affected, a toll that will be a heavy burden for many more years to come for those who now have to move on best they can.

Sri Lanka does not need more trauma or grief. We have had more than enough of both. And yet, can a tsunami also be an act of cleansing? Can it, if we creatively imagine ways to grapple with our loss, be a catalyst to engender trust at a time when, in the peace process, there was a severe erosion of it? Can the same water, which took away so much of a nation’s soul, also act as a giver – a giver of a renewed hope to create and nurture links between human beings bound by a tragedy that saw no ethnic or geographic boundaries?

The Japanese word for crisis is kiki and is made up of two parts: Danger and Opportunity. Danger (the left part of the Kanji) pictures a man on the edge of a precipice. Opportunity (the right part) is a reminder of the opportunity that can come out of danger.

Opportunity must not be confused with opportunism, of which, even in a time of national crisis, we have seen aplenty. Opportunism is the re-branding of self-interested and partisan politics, a bloodied sceptre that uses every opportunity to raise its head in Sri Lanka. The present crisis, however, hold within it a unique historical opportunity that can, in ways hitherto unimaginable, bring communities together and create inclusive, holistic and sustainable processes by which we can re-shape our collective destiny as a nation. In this rubric, the tsunami is symbolical of more than a destructive force, but one that binds communities who experience its power and live through it, to a greater humanity that resides within all of us – a humanity that crosses identity groups of ethnicity, colour, race or religion.

What then is the role of technology at this time?

To many, it is a simple question to answer. There is no role, because the needs on the ground require physical interventions, not virtual promises. Because PC’s and modems can’t help those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or, worse, gangrene. Because the internet is useless as a purveyor of information to places which are no longer on the map, let alone in the umbrella of mobile telephony.

I question the validity of these assumptions and in place of scepticism, submit that without technology, it will never be possible to mould aid and relief interventions that resonate with the real needs on the ground, in a timely and more importantly, sustainable manner.

On a personal note, from the night of Boxing Day to date, I have spent more hours in front of an overworked and underpowered laptop than I ever have before, trying to provide information to organisations, local and international, based in Colombo, to help them with the immediate needs of aid and relief coordination.

But more importantly, we need to think beyond the immediate needs. When the global media attention reaches its zenith in the immediate aftermath of human suffering on a grand scale and the leaders of the Global North are awakened to a moral duty to help those less fortunate, the money that flows in are more than adequate to meet the needs of the field operations in the immediate future.

Medium to long term needs are another matter, but critically, also where the long term impact of the tsunami will be most keenly felt. To not think about medium to long term needs is dangerous, because an over emphasis on the immediate needs can lead to the creation of ineffective mechanisms for, inter alia, aid delivery and relief operations that inadvertently sow the seeds for future conflict and structural inequality.

The sensitive and creative use of technology can help nurture change processes that can lead to more peaceful and sustainable futures and avoid the pitfalls of partisan aid and relief operations. Providing for mobile telephony that give remote communities access to constantly updated weather and geological information and helping create endogenous early warning systems using local knowledge, using tele-centres to serve as repositories of information on emergency procedures and evacuation guidelines, coordinating the work of aid agencies on the ground ensuring the delivery of aid and relief to all communities, monitoring aid flows and evaluating delivery, creating effective mechanisms for the coordination of reconstruction and relief efforts, creating avenues for effective communication between field operations and warehouses based in urban centres, creating secure virtual collaboration workspaces that bring in individuals and organisations sans ethnic, geographic or religious boundaries, enabling centralised data collection centres that collect information from the field and distribute it to relevant stakeholders are just some of the immediate uses for technology.

In the longer term, it is imperative to use trust relationships nurtured in virtual domains at present (for example, in state and non-state actors coming together in virtual spaces for aid and relief coordination) to nourish the larger dialogues in the peace process – on land, resource utilisation and fiscal structures. The effective cooperation on secure and reliable virtual communities can lead to the creation of champions within identity groups who, in liaison with like minded individuals and organisations from elsewhere, create bulwarks against future regression into parochial and zero-sum negotiations, that don’t fully acknowledge the shared trauma and suffering of communities. Technology can help knowledge flows from the diaspora to directly influence developmental processes on the ground, by-passing, if necessary, third parties to directly empower communities. Tele-centres can be repositories of alternative livelihoods in areas that it is now impossible to carry on traditional modes of living. Using cheaply available self-powered digital radios with broadband downlinks, it is possible to empower even the remotest communities with information that they can translate into knowledge to help them rebuild lives and create connections with others who have suffered the same plight. Online dispute resolution can use organic and local knowledge frameworks with creative and modern dispute resolution mechanisms to effectively address the problems that individuals and communities will face on the ground with limited access to resources. Beyond the mere provision of computers, and eschewing the notion that ICT can by itself effectively address the myriad of problems that the tsunami has left in its wake, a pragmatic approach to the use of technology in post-disaster situations can nourish and empower those who have been working for peace in Sri Lanka.

It is unlikely that a single tsunami will wipe out identities that many have died to protect and generations have fought to keep alive. However, we are confronted now with a unique historical event that can change the contours of what was a floundering peace process and re-energise it with dialogue that crosses parochial and partisan boundaries and explores, through suffering common to all communities, ways in which sustainable futures for all can be built.

This then is our burden – to remember Boxing Day 2004 not only as a tragedy, but as an opportunity that allowed leaders and communities to come together to address the need to rebuild lives and shattered dreams.

Through the cacophony of voices vying for attention in Sri Lanka today lies dormant the silence of a larger dream – the aspiration of communities to live in peace.

Let us, in 2005, give life to this silent prayer.

* The author is a Rotary World Peace Scholar at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia and the Strategic Manager of Info Share (, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The views expressed here are his own

tsunami relief

This is an effort to speak with someone on the ground in Sri-Lanka.
I am a 39 year old male living in US I have applied for my passport and am planning on volunteering to help in the rebuilding of the devastated areas in sri-lanka. I feel that I should help and my experience and skills in construction and engineering and operation of heavy equipment among many others seem to be needed. I would like to get the opinion of those there about this I don't wish to be a "missionary" of any sort. I just want to help those who need it. I feel that our country has sent many troops to war in other countries and i too a a veteran of the military but I feel very strongly that this need is great and requires a great response. If anyone has any information of others groups that I can contact once I am on the ground in Sri-Lanka I would greatly appreciate it. I have contact many relief organizations concerning this matter and it seems as though the bueracracy is a stumbling block to some humanitarian efforts as common. My email address is I invite anyone to respond with comments or questions or information.
With Hope,

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

SLIC breaks record after tsunami-

Dear All;
Please read the following news article. Don't you think it is a bit too quick to response to an insurance claim in SriLanka. Infact I think it is the 'Fastest payment' in SLIC history.
What they don't say is the owner of the vehicle is a close friend/relative of one of the Directors of SLIC. No other damage has occurred to any of  his other properties. Person who owned the vehicle just wanted to get the money before any special policy will be applied to tsunami victims.
there are other questions arise from this-
* how many other vehicle damage claims have been honoured so far by SLIC
* If they have, how many of them below Rs. 1.5 million, and how many of them above that margin ()
* Has SLIC honoured any other claims (lost of life, damaged houses, damaged boats etc) up to now( and how many)
* Has the board of directors of SLIC taken a policy decision to honour motor insurance claims that does not carry comprehensive coverage but occurred damages as a result of tsunami. (Even a regular Comprehensive Coverage would not cover natural disasters of this scale)
* was it possible to utilise those motor engineers who were sent out as assessment teams to Yala in more useful manner for relif work.
Will we get answers for these questins ever?
* SLIC begins paying motor claims

Wednesday, January 5, 2005, 2:44 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 04, Colombo: The Sri Lanka Insurance Company (SLIC) has honoured the first motor claim from the recent tsunami disaster. The company paid Rs. 2,675,000 today for a vehicle found damaged at the Yala Wild Life Sanctuary.

The company, which was the first to send out assessment teams, had motor engineers cover affected areas from Dehiwala up to Yala, building information databases on damaged vehicles.
SLIC has decided to waive conditions that restrict payments on claims made on damaged motor vehicles, consultant Suren Galagedera said.
He said that although motor insurance does not carry comprehensive coverage for floods and other natural disasters and there are no insurance institutions that pay for such claims, SLIC has decided to settle these claims as ex gratia payment to help customers in distress.  

Monday, January 03, 2005

brazilian journalist

Hi Rasikaw!
I´m Flávia Mantovani, a journalist from Brazil. I saw your blog in internet.
I write for a newspaper directed to young people (adolescents) of my country and I´d like to talk with someone that has survived from the tsunamis. It has to be a person that have less than 21 years and that talks english or spanish. It would be kind if it´s someone who writes a blog about the happenings.
Are you in that conditions? How old are you?
Do you know someone that can talk to me?
Thank you very much!
With my best wishes for 2005,
Flávia Mantovani
Folha de S.Paulo
tel. + 55 11 3224-3210
cel. + 55 11 8359-7815
about Folha/sobre a Folha:

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Sanitation and Well Protection/Decontamination Project

LacNet has started a Sanitation and Well Protection/Decontamination Project. Details can be found at


Saturday, January 01, 2005

How it happened

BBC has an animation of what heppened

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