A delegation of Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops and The National Christian Council called on President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday.
The delegation briefed the President on the contribution already made by the Christian community to alleviate the distress of the disaster victims and inquired how they could help the government’s efforts to rebuild the lives of the affected and assist in restoration of damaged infrastructure.
The President explained to the Bishops the current status and the plans. She said three Task Forces and the Centre for National Operations (CNO) are now under the purview of the Secretary to the President. All affected areas are now getting aid and she rejected allegations made by some sections of media. She said the Northern and Eastern regions in fact now receive more government relief material than rest of the country. The government was awaiting the TNA’s participation in the apex body to rebuild the nation and LTTE’s assistance to streamline government’s relief flow to the North and East.
President Kumaratunga invited the Christian delegation to play a role in trauma counselling activities and provide safe shelter for orphaned children with the involvement of the National Child Protection Authority. The Bishops agreed to provide the details of counselling facilities they could make available soon.
The President said that several housing projects for the affected families will be launched by the urban development authorities and the Church could help the government by supporting some of these projects.
The President and the Christian Affairs Minister Milroy Fernando explained to the delegation the scale of the damage suffered by the fishing community and their industry. Their housing requirements will be met by the Government with overseas assistance and Sri Lanka’s business sector; around 75% of the fishing community have lost their livelihood. The Sri Lanka Navy is engaged in clearing the debris of the coastline to help fishermen.
President Kumaratunga said Sri Lanka’s fisheries industry would need at least 100,000 fishing boats to restore the industry and the immediate need is at least half that quantity. She said some countries have already promised some aid and more overseas assistance is expected.
Catholic Bishops and the Heads of the National Christian Council also
expressed their views about the status of the peace process. The President
emphasised the need for inter-religious harmony. Members of the delegation
stressed on the need to promote the religious education and values among children. The Catholic Archbishop Dr. Oswald Gomis and Rt.
Rev. Kumara Illangasinghe led the two delegations.
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