Not easy to divide donations post US temple attack

Last Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 09:01

Oak Creek: Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations poured in from around the world after the deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in the US last month. Now temple officials are treading carefully as they figure out how to distribute the money.

Aware of arguments that flared among victims` families after previous mass shootings in the US, Sikh leaders are relying on an outside expert to figure out the fairest way to share the funds.

"You never really know what will happen when there`s money involved, but we`re doing our best to safeguard against any problems," said Amardeep Kaleka, whose father was among those killed. "The community has already suffered. If there`s any infighting, there will only be more suffering."

The collections are expected to total between USD 500,000 and USD 600,000. The outpouring followed a rampage in which a man with ties to white supremacy groups killed six worshippers and wounded two before killing himself. His motive may never be known.

Those killed ranged in age from a 41-year-old mother of two who was her family`s primary breadwinner to an 84-year-old man who retired long ago. One of the wounded didn`t have health insurance and has been hospitalised in critical condition for a month.

"No one wants to be callous, but there are finite resources," said Kaleka. "Some hard decisions will have to be made."

Last week, relatives of some of the Colorado theatre shooting victims lashed out because fundraisers who collected more than USD 5 million had so far given no more than USD 5,000 to each family.
In this case, the worshippers know each other. It`s not yet clear whether that will avert disagreements.

Temple officials turned to lawyer Ken Feinberg, a victims` attorney and claims expert who directed victims` payments after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010 and the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.

Feinberg told a news agency he recommends the temple act swiftly, saying the families need money now and won`t benefit from a long delay. He also recommended giving the families of the dead equal amounts, even if one victim was 84 and another was 41.

"You would treat everyone exactly the same. All lives would be equal," Feinberg said. "That`s the only way to avoid the fairness argument. If anyone`s unhappy, there`s an outlet for anyone who wants to litigate."

Jasjit Singh, the executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund, acknowledged Feinberg`s advice might not sit well with some people, but said the alternative trying to determine how much more one life is worth than another is also difficult.

PTI




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