Ranil blasts govt. over its reaction to lives lost at sea



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"We had occasion to get assistance from the Indian Coastguard Corps during such a hazardous situation because they have vessels and aircrafts with modern facilities that can be utilized in such emergencies. But, the government paid no attention to this."


 by Saman Indrajith


Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the government, which has money for night racing and launching rockets into the space, should pay compensation of more than Rs 100,000 for each of the fishermen lost in the recent storms.


Making a special statement in Parliament, Wickremesinghe said the Government should take full responsibility for the loss of lives. "We cannot be content at all with the payment, in installments, of a sum of rupees one hundred thousand for loss of lives. A bigger payment should be made to such families. Equally, some sort of honour must be paid and recognition given to the civilians who took action to save lives." 


He said: "The Government has money and organizational power for night racing. They have also money and organizational power to launch rockets to space. But it has neither money nor organizational power to rescue lives of the people in the face of a natural disaster." 


Full text of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition: "A number of fishermen lost their lives in the sea under the inclement weather that affected their livelihood. According to the statistics we have received so far, the number of lives lost is 51, the number of disappearances is 17 and the number of missing boats is 37.


"Why did this situation really arise?  According to the Ministry of Fisheries, the Meteorological Department has not issued a risk warning in time. According to the Meteorological Department, the Fisheries Department has ignored the announcement made by them. The media institutions say that they have not received either such a fax message or an e-mail letter from the Meteorological Department. What is manifest out of all these confusions is that although there are a number of Ministries, officials and offices, the required risk precautions had not been issued in time. The result was the loss of a number of valuable human lives by us.


"Not only that, there was no course of action in operation to take to the land harmlessly a number of fishermen who had barely managed to return ashore after a deadly struggle with the waves. Some lost their lives at the sight of the shore. It is because of the diligence and timely intervention of courageous youth who had been on the shore at that time that a number of other lives were saved. They risked their own lives to go into the sea waters and save the lives of fishermen. The rescue operations on the part of the Air Force and Navy were of a very low standard. According to the reports, they had utilized only one helicopter for these operations, there were no normal aircrafts at all. According to the Security Forces, they had not been formally informed of such a serious weather situation. Even the normal information given to them was reported to have been made much later. 


"We had occasion to get assistance from the Indian Coast Guard at such a hazardous situation because they have vessels and aircrafts with modern facilities that can be utilized in such emergencies. But, the government paid no attention to this.


"The Meteorological institutions had known very well the seriousness of this inclement weather by the midnight of that day. By about 3.00 O’clock in the morning, the situation grew worse and even then there was no coordination among relevant parties and no risk warnings were made nor emergency discussions held among them. If at least they managed to do that the loss of lives could have been minimized.


"This is not the first time when human lives were lost due to the negligence of the government in inclement weather situations. A similar incident occurred also in the year 2011. Making a statement in Parliament under Standing Order 23(2) on 21st January 2011, I expressed my concerns on this shortcoming. Then I stated like this: 


"Global Meteorologists had cautioned that a dangerous weather situation like this will come about. Other countries in the region kept alert on that and hence were able to minimize and manage the impact of disaster. They took action to draw attention of the world towards them as soon as the emergence of disaster. Through such action they were able to offer immediate relief to the affected. Unfortunately, maybe because we are the surprise of Asia, we did nothing of such sort. We had no preparation whatsoever for that. We don’t know whether Meteorological and Geological institutions in our country issued risk warnings Whether they did it or not, our administrators did not care about it. Our authorities did not take action at least to read a weather forecast in a website like Yahoo and design a methodology to face this disaster. What is most deplorable is that, even after the disaster, no proper action was taken to manage the disaster or to give relief to the affected."


"After a passage of two years, now we, unfortunately, have to reiterate the same words. The very same words with no change at all.  After my statement on that day in Parliament, the Government made no investigation at all into the matters raised therein. Neither did it take any action to rectify the shortcomings mentioned. Nor did the National Council on Disaster Management convene and design a complete plan. According to the security forces, they had not been given any instruction or arrangement about how to coordinate with civil segments and initiate joint operations in such a disaster situation. What is obvious is that the government has had no interest at all in disaster management.


"The Government has money and organizational power for night racing They have also money and organizational power to launch rockets to the space.  But it has neither money nor organizational power to rescue lives of the people in the face of a natural disaster. 


"Now what we have to do is to make a common arrangement on how to act together in such a disaster situation at least in future. Still, there is no sign that the government has such a trend. There is no arrangement to encounter situations like this that might recur in future. Instead of making such a preparatory arrangement, a Committee has been appointed to investigate whether the fishermen received the risk warning or not. According to the latest statements made by the Ministers, this disaster is a result of the failure on the part of the fishermen to put on the life-saving jackets. However, never had such putting on life-saving jackets been made compulsory. Future lives to be lost will never be saved through such stupid statements. Therefore, a perfect mechanism operatable at such situations should be prepared immediately.


"We request the Government to take action at least now to this end. Further, the Government should take full responsibility on this loss of lives. We cannot be content at all with payment in installments of a sum of rupees One Hundred Thousand for loss of lives. A bigger payment should be made to such families. Equally, some sort of honour must be paid and recognition given to the civilians who took action to save lives. 


"Therefore, my request from the government is to make a full statement before this House on this incident and the intended future arrangements related to it."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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