This is an account of a hopeful story from my friend Skanda Kumar Aruni. It is these acts of kindness and humaneness that raises hopes for our country.
Just back from Killinochchi (at 4 am Monday 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 that 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 etc and also has a badminton court and modest gym facilities .
We then went to a village adopted by the Foundation of Goodness (a Kusils brainchild supported by Murali Sanga and Mahela) which has installed outdoor toilets and water facilities through wells for the people there. Met up with around 15 educated young women looking for opportunities to be self employed. I have returned with a proposal they have made to that which will require Rs 150,000 (in order to become a supplier to the many shops in consumer products in town) and once it is examined and approved by Kushils staff I will try and raise the funds and channel it through the foundation 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 saw the work that is being coordinated by the army to take the water from the Iranamadu tank to Jaffna in order to provide drinking water in the North.
Finally the purpose of our visit ….to witness the first ever match between a visiting Australian club U-17 team with a combined North East team (also U-17)…and was 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 (made 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 Maj Gen Udaya Perera ) and the attention to detail in all respects truly amazed us all!!
Finally 84 bicycles, costing rs 10000 each, were gifted to a similar number of schoolgirls through Sangakkara’s Bike for Life fund during the tea break, while at the end of the game the Australian players gifted a bike to each of the North East team players which were 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 Gunansekera). David 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 and the progress was there for us to see.