Letter to the American Red Cross

by Donald Gnanakone, Director, Tamils of Southern California, January 5, 2005

President, American Red Cross

Washington, DC, USA.

Dear Mr. President,

Re: Red Cross aid not reaching NorthEast Sri Lanka

Due to the frustration and seriousness of the problem that is being faced by the Red Cross branches in NorthEastern Sri Lanka, I am forced to bring such problems to the attention of the President and Vice President of the American section for further action and the equitable distribution of funds collected worldwide to those in need.

May I thank the Red Cross for all the assistance that has been rendered in past years. 

Now we need to account for all the millions of dollars being collected from the US public on behalf of the tsunami victims.  This aid is not reaching NorthEastern Sri Lanka, where two thirds of the victims in Sri Lanka originate.

Since time is of the essence, I would appreciate your urgent attention to this matter and I enclose the correspondence received from the Trincomalee Red Cross in Sri Lanka.

When the American Red Cross and other charities collect resources on behalf of the victims, they need to realize they are holding such resources in trust for the people of those countries.  Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka and related problems, the aid which is going to Sri Lanka does not reach the NorthEast region where the Tamils live.

The problem we are facing is that organizations like the Red Cross are not sending funds to the local Red Cross branches operating in the NorthEast.  My cousin, Dr. Gunalan, is the highest ranking medical officer in the district of Trincomalee and his wife is the head of the general hospital.  As chairman of the Red Cross of Trincomallee, I am in daily touch with Dr. Gunalan via email and phone and he says that both the hospital and the Red Cross of Trincomalee are short of medicine and material.  He is in touch with other Red Cross branches in the northern areas of Sri Lanka and has heard the same complaints. 

There is no need for those Red Cross branches such as Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Rincomalee to be short of medicine and essential materials which are urgently need by the victims of the tsunami 10 days after the occurence, when millions in both private and government funds are available.

On behalf of the Tamils and the victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka, I respectfully and in all humility request you to ensure that funds are sent to the Colombo Red Cross immediately with strict instructions that they be dispersed so that medicines can be purchased and released to the much-deprived Red Cross branches in the Tamil province.

Sending funds to the Ministry of Health of the GOSL is an exercise in futility, as the medicines and materials will not reach the NorthEast in a timely fashion, or, indeed, ever.  We have complained about this problem many occasions in the past.

This problem is related to the stalled peace talks.  The 500 million dollars pledged by the donor countries in aid in 2003 cannot be utilized.  The GOSL wanted all the funds handled by their Finance Ministry, while the LTTE disagreed and wanted a separate fund-accepting authority managed by the World Bank.  To date no agreement has been reached on how to disperse aid funds into the Tamil areas and there seems no hope for the future either.  Aid must be sent directly into the NorthEast without the interference of the GOSL. 

###

Posted January 6, 2005