To stand against the tidal waves of fear
Daily Mirror Editorial
Dec 26, 2011

Today, Sri Lankans, along with people from other Asians regions who witnessed the fatal Boxing Day tidal waves in 2004, remember the victims of the most cataclysmic natural disaster ever to have hit the country’s annals. The waves not only swept away thousands of lives, rendered many homeless and damaged numerous properties, but also left a shadow of fear in the minds of those who survived to tell their tale.

The deathly wave taught us many things besides the frailty of human life. After seven years of rebuilding and proposed, post tsunami development projects, the question remains as to whether the people living down the coastal belt have been restored to their former lifestyles. There is no doubt that rebuilding infrastructure and providing homes for the homeless were the urgent requirements that needed prompt remedies. In fact, the damage caused by the disaster was such that the roads and railway tracks needed to be renovated immediately to assure mobility and flow of aid. The public places were subsequently reconstructed and there were roofs above the heads of those whose houses were washed away. Materially, the survivors had nothing else to request; yet, there was much that has been left untold.

One would go to the degree of preaching to be dependent on the tsunami warning system established in the aftermath of the calamity, which, even though came late, was no doubt a wise move. Yet, there is very little that can be done with an alarm system alone in a country where the vigilance of the officials who are entrusted with public safety is very much in question. The fear that has remained in the people’s minds could be justified, given that their emotional needs have not been dealt with in a proper manner. Instead of making lives easier for them, the recent lapses by the likes of the Meteorological Department have only proved that, for them trust is hard to come by.

One can hardly expect the government to engage its officials in door-to-door counselling to rebuild trust among these people who still live with the horrors of the Indian Ocean tsunami; yet, it is certainly no big burden to make efficient the departments that directly look into public safety and welfare.

Compared to other countries that shared the horrors of the fateful Boxing Day, Sri Lanka has braved the troubled waters and emerged almost victorious. The state commemoration function will be the narration of its success story- a narrative in which the setting is perfectly built and the roads are as smooth as airways. Yet, the characters that survived the woes and are struggling to go back to their pre-tsunami lifestyles, will be overshadowed by such adornments.

Tsunami was more of a symbol of our togetherness than of our helplessness. it showed the world our resilience as a nation. It is high time that people be granted the privilege to feel safe, with every drill they practise and every precaution they are being given. Yet, a cyclone that throws them off the beds and the fishermen off the boats indicates otherwise.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka