Army finds nothing on the ground in newly cleared areas
Gotabhaya calls for audit of NGO-INGO funds and spendingby Shamindra Ferdinando
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday called for an audit of funds received by INGOs and NGOs for development work in areas under LTTE control at the time of the Norwegian brokered CFA came into operation in February 2002.
He said that both the Sri Lankan government and those who contributed millions of dollars to INGO and NGO kitties should investigate the recipients. A comprehensive investigation would reveal the true extent of the fraud that had been committed, he said.
Rajapaksa stressed that all INGOs including UN agencies should be probed with regard to funds and all other assets including vehicles brought into the country.
In an interview with The Sunday Island, the Defence Secretary said the army hadn t come across even a minor scale development program undertaken by INGOs and NGOs in the liberated area west of the A9 road.
''There is absolutely nothing,'' he said, adding that except for a relatively a small area west of the Kilinochchi-Elephant Pass section of road, the army had regained the area. There couldn t be any significant development in the area yet to be liberated, he said.
As far as construction was concerned, the army had only seen the ditch cum earth bunds built by the LTTE to protect its major bases in the Vanni, underground bunkers and two runways, the outspoken official said.
There was no doubt that heavy earth moving equipment taken by INGOs, particularly the Norwegian People s Aid (NPA) into the LTTE-held territory had been used by the LTTE for its own purposes, he said.
At one location, the army had come across a name board which identified a destroyed cadjan hut as an UNDP development office, he said. Responding to queries, the retired Gajaba Regiment officer said that there couldn t have been any major development work in areas east of A9 and north of Mankulam-Oddusudan-Mulliyawalai-Mullaitivu road as the LTTE considered the entire area a high security zone. Whatever the construction carried out there would have been for the benefit of the LTTE, he asserted.
He said that the INGOs and NGOs had received millions of dollars from the international community since February 2002 to implement development work, rehabilitate tsunami affected communities and improve living conditions of the people.
'What have they done with the funds if the money had been actually spent on the people? There is absolutely nothing on the ground (in Vanni) to justify their high profile presence there,' he said.
When they were asked to leave the area last September, some caused a major rumpus. They talked as if the Vanni population would die of starvation as distribution of essential items would collapse due to government action but today they had been exposed.
Nothing could be as shameless as exploiting the misery of the people to raise funds overseas. Millions of dollars had been raised and there had been instances where an LTTE front organization receiving funds to carry out mine clearing operations. He accused INGOs and NGOs of misappropriating funds.
'Expatriates and their local acolytes were having a good time at the expense of the war victims,' he said. Those who received overseas funding for various projects including peace building programs led a luxurious life, he said. For them, peace was a growing industry which would have given them the opportunity to live comfortably.
Even a million seminars, workshops, overseas jaunts and peace awards would not have brought the LTTE to the negotiating table, he said.
The chief architect of the war against terrorism said that once major ground operations come to an end, an opportunity could be given to lawmakers and representatives of the international community to see the area.
Take the Mannar-Pooneryn A 32 road which had been neglected over the years, he said. Had those bleeding hearts really wanted to help the people they could have done a lot, at least repair the A 32. But obviously they had been busy running down the government while spending money on personal comforts, he said.
Rajapaksa said that he always believed INGO and NGO employees, both local and expatriates, would have done anything to secure additional funds and resources. They would have even cooperated with the devil as long as their relationship facilitated their primary agenda, the Defence Secretary said.