I have just back from Killinochchi ……at 4 am Tuesday morning after having left at 8 am on Sunday!! It was a rewarding trip that allowed a group of us to visit an orphanage of 330 children, and see the work a retired GA in charge, Rasanayagam, is doing for them and for 6000 widows in that area. We also visited a Harmony Centre constructed by the Army that will soon provide access to IT, English, et cetera — a centre that also has a badminton court and modest gym facilities .
We then went to a village adopted by the Foundation of Goodness (Kushil’s brainchild supported by Murali, Sanga and Mahela) which has installed outdoor toilets and water facilities through wells for the people there. We met up with around 15 educated young women looking for opportunities to be self-employed.
I have returned with a proposal (to become a supplier to the many shops in town of consumer products) they have made to me which will require Rs. 150,000. Once it is examined and approved by Kushil’s staff I will try and raise the funds and channel it through FOG for monitoring purposes.
We saw for ourselves the interaction between the army and the civilian population that was reflected in the resurgence of perhaps the biggest town in the North that was devastated in the closing stages of the war. We also saw the work that is being coordinated by the army to take the water from the Iranamadu tank to Jaffna to provide drinking water in the North.
Finally we focused on the purpose of our visit: to witness the first ever match between a visiting Australian club Under 17 team against a combined North East team (also U17) and were very impressed with what we saw (Michael Tissera was also there ) in terms of talent, fitness and performance as they beat the visitors by 70 runs, after making 173 in their turn at batting after winning the toss in a T 20 game. The team had 3 Sinhala boys and the rest were Tamils and they blended well together.
There were over 4000 spectators on the main ground in the centre of town (matting pitch) and the arrangements were in the hands of the army (headed by a very committed CO Major-General Udaya Perera. The attention to detail in all respects truly amazed us all!!
Finally 84 bicycles (Rs. 10,000 each) were gifted to a similar number of schoolgirls through Sangakkara’s “bike for life fund” at the tea break, while at the end of the game the Australian players gifted a bike to each of the North East team players…..donated by them, their parents and David Cruz (a Sri Lankan born Australian now domiciled here who was responsible for arranging the tour with Kushil Gunasekera). David has pledged 2 turf pitches for the ground and the CO volunteered the army’s services to maintain them!
I am aware that there have been mixed reactions to the role of the army in areas recovering from the war……what we saw in our limited stay told us that there is a sincere and committed effort being made to win hearts and minds. The progress was there for us to see.
Our recce team comprised of Kushil, Michael, self, 2 ex-UNDP and UN employed Sri Lankans (now retired) and their spouses .
An Email Note from Michael Tissera to Michael Roberts, 1 July 2013
A VERY ACCURATE REPORT BY SKANDA.
I WAS GREATLY IMPRESSED WITH MAJOR GENERAL UDAYA PERERA WHO IS DOING A WONDERFUL JOB OF RECONCILIATION.
AN INTERESTING POINT IS THAT 104 OUT OF 109 applicants by Tamil girls to join the army have been successful and they are making use of them to help other Tamil girls to be self-employed. Beauty culture is the most popular among the Tamil girls. The Army is doing a marvellous job and although there are calls for them to move out, in my view it is too premature.
The North/East U17 team had talent and showed great energy & enthusiasm. With good handling they should produce some useful cricketers in the future.
ALSO SEE the detailed account of this event recently presented by Cathy and David Cruse — http://cathycruse.blogspot.com.au/