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AKP, MHP reject motion to investigate use of earthquake relief donations

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Wednesday rejected a parliamentary motion by the main opposition Republican People’s Party to investigate how donations collected in the aftermath of two powerful earthquakes in the country in February were spent, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.

The “Turkey One Heart” (Türkiye Tek Yürek Kampanyası), a fundraising event on live TV on Feb. 15, raised some TL 115.1 billion ($6 billion) from mainly corporate donors for the victims of the devastating earthquakes that hit southern and southeastern Turkey on Feb. 6, claiming more than 50,000 lives.

CHP lawmaker Umut Akdoğan said his party was seeking an investigation into how the donations were spent and whether they were used to meet the needs of the earthquake victims due to past experiences when the government used donations in the aftermath of such tragedies for other purposes.

The AKP and the MHP, which have a majority of seats in parliament, rejected the CHP’s motion.

Many people including opposition politicians frequently question the special earthquake tax, implemented after a powerful earthquake hit the Marmara region in 1999, killing around 20,000 people.

They claim that tax revenues were not used for the purpose of preparing the country, which lies on major fault lines, for earthquakes.

In the aftermath of various deadly earthquakes over the past years, investigations were launched by Turkish prosecutors into individuals who raised questions on social media about where the revenue from the earthquake tax has been used.

About 63 billion Turkish lira was collected in the special tax following the 1999 earthquake, which became a permanent tax in 2004.

Government critics say funds meant for earthquake relief and damage mitigation are being channeled to other government budgets.

In the aftermath of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that killed 41 people and injured a thousand others in the eastern Turkish province of Elazığ in January 2020, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied claims that the earthquake tax had been used for other than the purpose of its collection. He said his government did not have time to give an accounting to opposition politicians of how the tax was being used.

The fact that hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors are still struggling with basic necessities such as housing, food and water raises further questions about whether the earthquake donations are being used properly.

Turkey received huge amount of donations within and without Turkey following the devastating earthquakes.

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