Lost Aid

COLOMBO, Dec 18, 2006 (AFP) – Corruption and ethnic violence is blocking a flood of foreign aid for Sri Lanka’s tsunami survivors two years after the massive disaster, according to official records and whistle-blowers.

President Mahinda Rajapakse admitted a year ago the country had failed to do enough to help the victims of the towering waves, but thousands of survivors still live in “tent villages” along the coast.

Sri Lanka, one of the worst hit by the December 2004 Asian tsunami, lost an estimated 31,000 people while another million were left homeless, but the island also attracted 3.2 billion dollars in foreign aid pledges.

Out of the promised aid, it was not clear how much was received, but the state auditor general in September 2005 noted out of 1.16 billion dollars committed, only 13.5 percent had actually been spent.

Since then, there has been no fresh government audit.

Whistle-blowers believe that only a fraction of the aid actually went to the real victims and in the absence of proper account-keeping, it has been virtually impossible to track down what happened to the cash.

Official figures are often contradictory, but even the state admits only about half of the estimated 100,000 dama