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Indian Ocean Tsunami response

The tsunami of rip-offs

By Judi McLeod
Friday, December 30, 2005

Tip-offs passed to by Sri Lankan journalists during the past year were right on target: The promised money from Canada for victims of the December 26 tsunami never came.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who made a January 3, 2005 photo-op of tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka, guaranteed $425-million for tsunami relief that has yet to arrive.

Forty million dollars of the $425-million pledged by Martin was donated by average Canadians.

and now we know, courtesy of the Financial Times, "a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami, up to a third of the $590-million so far spent under the United Nations' $1.1-billion disaster flash appeal appears to have gone on administration, staff and related costs."

The Canadian $425-million was to have been administered by CIDa (Canadian International Development agency). Canadian Maurice Strong, an advisor to both UN Secretary-General Kofi annan and Prime Minister Paul Martin is the founder of CIDa.

With the whitewash of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal ongoing, should anyone be surprised that a two-month investigation by the Financial Times has also found that several UN agencies are still refusing to disclose details of their relief expenditure–in spite of earlier pledges of transparency by senior UN officials?

The international response to the Boxing Day tragedy that last year killed more than 220,000 people and displaced untold legions of others was unprecedented. according to UN estimates, governments, companies and individuals pledged more than $13-billion to help affected countries.

Long before the international press delivered exposes on the tsunami relief scandal, award-winning Canadian documentary journalist Garth Pritchard was asking questions.

"Last night, Padre Captain J.B. Hardwick received a telephone call from Pastor Sunil Sagadavan of Smyrna Church Samagipura, of Hingurana–a small town in the ampara district where the Canadian DaRT (Disaster assistance Relief Team) spent 40 days helping the victims of the tsunami," Pritchard wrote in CFP, on May 5, 2005. "Pastor Sunil reported that the people–those affected by the tsunami–were in exactly the same situation now as they had been after DaRT left."

"Canadians contributed a minimum of $40-million from their own pockets. Where is it?" Pritchard asked.

Pritchard, in Sri Lanka at the invitation of DaRT, says Canadian soldiers watched in disbelief as white SUVs roared up and down the coastal highway with the UN flag and the UN logo in black letters on the doors.

"They were showing their UN presence, but they never stopped. In the end, the local people formed human barricades to stop these vehicles. They were worried that the SUVs were traveling at such a high speed, they posed a danger to children."

One year later, many tsunami victims are still exposed to the elements scrounging for food.

" Billions of dollars are out there somewhere, but the people are still with nothing," Pritchard says.

"It seems that the meager food that they had been allotted was to be cut off in December. One man states the obvious: `I live in a tent. I scrounge every day. My family is dead. I can't say that I'll be in a house soon, because they keep saying they're going to build some housing for us. But they haven't started yet. and really, we don't know if they will.'"

For politicians like Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and bureaucrats like Kofi annan, the year 2005, like all others, was 365 days. For the victims of the December 26, tsunami, still languishing without shelter and scrounging for scraps of food, 2005 was a century.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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