Reconciliation Committee meetings were conducted at Divisional Secretariats in three Districts of the Northern Province between February 25th and 27th. The meetings were chaired by Divisional Secretaries at Vavuniya, Vavuniya South, Karachchi, Pachchilappalli and Chavakachcheri, supported by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, Advisor on Reconciliation to the President. Participants included Grama Niladharis, representatives of Rural Development Societies, School Principals, religious leaders, police officials, medical personnel and officials concerned with social support mechanisms.
Following discussion of problems and needs, mechanisms to ensure attention to such matters and the development of community based solutions were suggested. These included regular meetings at GN Divisions of development societies as well as social support groups. The need for educationists to develop extra-curricular activities was noted, as well as liaison between Women and Children Desks at Police Stations and officials concerned with Social Service, Probation, Counselling, and Women and Child Development.
Ensuring better training for Counsellors and Awareness Programmes for students and single women households was proposed, and police officials in Kilinochchi explained initiatives they had undertaken in this regard with support from German Development Cooperation, to develop better Counselling Services.
In both Vavuniya and Karachchi police officials had been assigned specific GN Divisions, to ensure swift responses to problems that might arise. The importance of identifying the vulnerable, and developing community support systems as well as early warning systems for possible abuse, was also discussed.
In Kilinochchi, Prof Wijesinha was taken around the refurbished hospital, and briefed on initiatives to ensure continuing improvement with regard to nutrition. In Vavuniya he attended the closing session of the Entrepreneur Training Workshop arranged through his decentralized budget. Initiatives proposed by the former combatants, the fourth group to receive this training, included the establishment of a bookshop in Kilinochchi, in addition to traditional pursuits such as tailoring and construction. The need to promote employment opportunities was stressed throughout, but it was heartening that the requests were for micro-credit facilities and the establishment of cooperatives rather than simply a demand for government jobs.
The meetings were arranged by the three ladies who now occupy District Secretary positions in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi and Jaffna, with the last also arranging a District Reconciliation Committee meeting in her office, following the initial meeting held at the Jaffna Public Library in December. Meetings were held in January in Mannar and Mullaitivu, as well as at Divisional Secretariats in Cheddikulam, Oddusuddan and Puthukudiyirippu.