President Mahinda Rajapakse is to establish a Reconstruction and Development Agency (RDA) to spearhead his Jaya Lanka programme to handle tsunami aid, including aid to areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and has named businessman Tiran Alles, who maintains friendly contacts with the Tiger guerrillas, as the chairman-designate.
The move is aimed at channelling foreign aid now stuck in the pipeline, especially to the LTTE-controlled areas of the Mullaitivu district and parts of the Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts, and to engage the rebel organisation in the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of these areas.
The new body will replace the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) which outgoing President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga established to share tsunami aid with the LTTE.
Sections of the P-TOMS agreement signed between the Kumaratunga government and the LTTE were held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. President Rajapakse vowed during his presidential election campaign to abolish this system and instead introduce the Jaya Lanka Programme.
Mr. Alles, a one time chairman of the Airport and Aviation Services, is widely regarded as one of the links former President Kumaratunga used to make contact with the LTTE. He is known to have passed several messages on her behalf. Mr. Alles is a close confidant of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
TAFREN Chief Rohini Nanayakkara and TAFOR Chief Tilak Ranaviraja have both tendered their resignations.
The other members of the new agency are former BOI Chief Saliya Wickramasuriya, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, K. Amunugama, B. Abeygunawardene of the Finance and Planning Ministry and Shanthi Fernando
The proposed RDA, which will be established through legislation in Parliament, will be the apex body for all tsunami-related activity. Besides overseeing tsunami reconstruction, it will also supervise all other organisations that are entrusted with reconstruction and development in the affected areas. This includes the TAFREN (Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation) and the TAFOR (Task Force for Relief).
Mr Alles told The Sunday Times he hoped to meet with the relevant donor agencies associated with all organisations engaged in tsunami work. `I will first see what has been done and take things from there,` he said.
He declined to give further details of how the proposed RDA would function, and how foreign aid would be channelled to the LTTE -- an issue that was at the root of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leaving the Kumaratunga government in June this year, saying that the government was still studying the measures to be adopted.