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Rainbow at Trinco Tsunami Commemoration Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan-Swiss cultural initiative

YouTube: Rainbow at Trinco Tsunami Commemoration SriLanka

Tricomalee, the port in north-east Sri Lanka. It is the 26th December 2005. On this bright, fresh morning an oppressive stillness dominates, the streets are empty, militia patrol at the junctions. Today the commemoration of the Tsunami is being celebrated. A year ago, on the coasts of the Indian Ocean, hundreds of thousands of human lives were wiped out by an enormous tidal wave; millions lost relatives, their homes and their livelihoods. In Sri Lanka alone 35,000 people died and half a million were rendered homeless within the space of a single hour.

Today the country and the world remember the victims; the attention of the media and the public is fully focused on the official commemorative ceremony at Galle, in the south of the country. In stark contrast to this: long rows of Umbul Umbul flags on the beach in the bay of the Trinco Harbour stand as a reminder of the tsunami victims of this region.

The flags send with the wind the many good wishes across the sea and out into the world – a sign of hope for the survivors. Painted in the colours of the rainbow, the flags have been erected in a combined act by tsunami survivors and relief workers, by children and adults, by layman and artists, by Tamils and Singhalese, Hindus and Buddhists, Christians and Moslems – by people who in their daily lives for the past year have been directly confronted by the effects of the flood catastrophe.

Even though the response to the destructive tidal wave was a world-wide wave of solidarity, the reconstruction is far from complete. Many of those affected, particularly in and around Trinco, remain empty handed. They live in around 50 temporary camps – without a home of their own and without work. The very fact that many helpers in various initiatives and projects have been looking after them has meant that hope for a return to «normality» has so far not begun to fade.

The initiative Rainbow at Trinco is a partnership project aimed at giving further impulse to this hope and to the needed relief measures. The Rainbow Project and CENT, an amalgamation of 40 aid organisations in Trinco, are demonstrating with this anniversary that there is still much to do before all the tsunami survivors are able to take their destiny into their own hands. CENT stands for Community Empowerment Network Trincomalee and has coordinated many projects in the past year. The emphasis of CENT lies in providing psychological rehabilitation to those, who have been suffering from the traumatic experiences brought by the flood catastrophe.

The commemoration programme, which will include a tree planting action, the traditional lighting of oil lamps, a photographic exhibition and a concluding public concert, will be overshadowed by the growing conflict between the opposing parties of the civil war: shootings, calls for strikes, political demonstrations in Trinco all mean that Rainbow at Trinco between Christmas and New Year will be a risky undertaking. In spite of this ominous situation, CENT is mobilising hundreds of people, who will process through the city with Umbul Umbul flags, accompanied by a children’s music group and the vehicles of aid organisatio "Support for the Tsunami victims should not go under in the face of a new civil war. We do not want to submit to the dictates of individual interest groups. It should not be that so many tsunami victims still do not have their own homes."

The Umbul Umbul flags  will be erected for a final time by the open sea on the 31st December and will then be taken back by those taking part to where they originated: to the many camps, to the aid centres, to the volunteers. There they will stand as colourful and optimistic symbols of partnership, to encourage and give new strength for the reconstruction effort.