Thursday, January 13, 2005

Lest we forget…

Although, it seem by common consent, the media have decided to scale back their coverage of the tsunami, the propaganda goes on.

A piece sent out by Associated Press today retails the claim: "UN feeding over 1 Million Tsunami survivors”, which is happily reproduced by the Guardian but also, unfortunately, by Fox News, which should know better.

Those better informed know that it is not the UN but mainly national aid efforts, backed by a number of charities that are doing the feeding, but that has not stopped the UN World Food Programme claiming in its latest report on "its aid efforts" that it has delivered 10,741 tons of food to 1,069,000 people since the the tsunami struck.

By any account, that is a lie, and it is even written by a "lie" – Yeoh en Lai, in fact, the Associated Press staff writer who filed the story.

However, if one is to read between the lines of a piece published by The Times today, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Headed "Warring groups of Sri Lanka vie for relief work credit", by Catherine Philp, it describes how conflict is brewing over who gains from helping victims.

Says ,Suren Pillai, the leader of the team from the Tamil Relief Organisation, in Sri Lanka, of foreign aid groups, "They shouldn’t be here. We can look after our people ourselves. They are only here to try and pretend they are helping."

A Buddhist monk, Sooriyagoda Piyananda, who had his relief supplies taken from him by a rival group had told local newspapers: "These people are trying to boost their image and are not interested in real relief work. What we brought here, too, has been spirited away by outside elements in our very presence."

And it seems that our own politicians cannot escape accusations of grandstanding. Sailors of HMS Chatham, the frigate sent to the east coast to assist in the relief operation, complained that their mission was delayed by a visit by Hilary Benn, the development minister, who came the day after they got there.

All of this will be important to remember in the future for, as time passes and memories dim, we will see self-interested groups strengthen their rhetoric and their claims about what a wonderful job they did. Pre-eminent amongst these will be the EU, which already is and will continue to exploit the disaster for its own ends.

We should be ready to remind them of the truth.

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