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Human Rights Relief Team Now Fact Finding on the Ground

Members of the Human Rights Relief Team meet with local residents and officials

Members of the Human Rights Relief Team meet with local residents and officials

January 28, 2005

A Human Rights Relief team sent to Sri Lanka by the International Foundation for Human Rights and Tolerance with the support of Church of Scientology International is now reviewing the scene on the ground.

The six-man team arrived in Sri Lanka from Los Angeles just over a week ago to assist the youngest survivors of the December 26th tsunami and to help prevent attempts to exploit children orphaned by the disaster. As a first step, team members have been speaking to local officials and relief organization representatives in order to have an accurate picture of the existing situation.

The team is currently based in Trincomalee, on the eastern coast of the island, and has met with officials from Save the Children, UNICEF, a Tamil rehabilitation organization and a Peace Committee for Women. They discussed with the Trincomalee director of Save the Children implementing a program of human rights education, which he sees as an important element in the children’s development. He said that more than 50 children had been lost in the Trincomalee district. A UNICEF representative confirmed this figure and added that he knew of 17 who had lost both parents, but emphasized that numbers are still changing as new reports come in. Local training is underway to increase people’s awareness of the signs of child abuse.

Meeting religious leaders in the Trincomalee region of Sri Lanka

Meeting religious leaders in the
Trincomalee region of Sri Lanka

Members of the team have also been speaking to many of those housed in the camps, most of them women and children. Despite the disaster, people are friendly and resilient. Nonetheless, rumors are not uncommon and can have an unstabilizing effect on the area. On Friday, for example, news swept Trincomalee that a town on the coast further south – Batticaloa – had been struck by another tsunami. The source of the rumor is not known but the news understandably created some panic among residents and officials. The relief team were able to establish that no tsunamis had been reported and helped to spread this news through the town, which calmed things down.

The task of reconstruction for the island is huge and will take months or even years. In total in Sri Lanka, 700,000 people are still living in welfare centers after the tsunami swept away their homes.

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