Construction Work of the Northern Expressway to Begin This Month


The construction work on the first phase of the Northern Expressway is scheduled to get underway this month. The four lane expressway will be built at a cost of approximately US$ 4 billion.

The Outer Colombo Circular Road, planned to be constructed from Enderamulla to Dambulla, will cover the main towns of Meerigama, Pothuhera, Kurunegala, Melsiripura and Galewela, under the first phase.

The entry way to Kandy will also be constructed as a part of this phase. It will begin from Pothuhera and end at Gannoruwa.

Project Minister of Highways, Ports and Shipping Mr. Nirmala Kothalawala said that the first phase of construction work will commence in Galewela, Galagedara, Rambukkana and Kurunegala later this month and is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

Source: Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping
Image Credit: Ministry of Defence and Urban Development

Government Renovates Thirteen Schools in the Kilinochchi District

151014-fullThe Ministry of Education, with assistance from the Republic of Korea, recently renovated 13 schools in the Kilinochchi District.

Situated in a district that was once home to the headquarters of the terrorist organisation known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), these schools had been in a dilapidated condition due to the near-30-year conflict.

The following schools had benefitted: St. Theresa’s Girls’ College Kilinochchi, Sivanagar Government Tamil Mixed School, Bharathy Vidyalaya Kilinochchi, Ramanathapuram West Government Tamil Mixed School, Konavil Government Tamil Mixed School, Ramanathapuram Maha Vidyalaya, Vaddakkachchi Maha Vidyalaya, Piramanthanaru Maha Vidyalaya, Tharmapuram Maha Vidyalaya, Murugananda College, Veravil Hindu Maha Vidyalaya,  Iranaitivu Roman Catholic Tamil Mix School and Kiranchi Government Tamil Mixed School.

Speaking about the renovations, Mr. Perumal Ganeshan, Principal of the Barathy Vidyalaya in Kilinochchi, said, “The students who were deprived from the opportunity of occupying luxurious (amenities) are now privileged to enjoy their school life with marvelous facilities.”

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Jaffna Students Take Part in Ranminithenna World Children’s Day Programme

2014_10_02_1_5A group of Jaffna students got opportunity to take part in World Children’s Day celebration organized on October 1st by the government at Ranminithenna, in the down south when the 7thth Sri Lanka Army Women’s Corps (7 SLAWC) at Kankasanthurai (KKS) arranged a trip for them in collaboration with Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). The memorable journey included travel by air and visits to the Parliament and SLRC to give Northern students firsthand experience in functioning of those places.

Fifteen boys and five girls from Vasavilan Central College, Point Pedro Hartley College, Ilavalai St. Henry College, Kokkuvil Hindu College, Nelliady Central College, Jaffna Hindu College and Jaffna Central College and five teachers were initially taken to Colombo by road on 29thth by the Commanding Officer 7 SLAWC Major Chandrika Rajaguru who stayed with children and teachers throughout the journey. She was assisted by Second Lieutenant N. Narenthra of 20thth National Cadet Corps Headquarters Jaffna. On 30thth they visited the Parliament, SLRC and other places.

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Army Conducts Mine Awareness Programmes

teaching 2

With view to educating the civilians on the danger of abandoned mines and Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXOs), 10th Field Engineers Regiment conducted two awareness programmes at Ilavali and Arali recently.

The programmes educated 133 civilians from the neighbouring areas. The 10th Field Engineers Regiment also conducted more awareness of this nature from March 25th to 31st for schoolchildren and teachers Sorampatthu, Kevil, Vetthalaikerny, Aliyawalai, Nagarkovil East, Nagarkovil South, Udutthurai, Champianpaththu, Ittavil and Kilalay.

Meanwhile, some soldiers went from door to door educating villagers. Nearly 960 children and 207 teachers and villagers learnt about mines and UXOs in the programme.

A Ministry for Reconciliation is needed to implement LLRC recommendations

NEW DELHI, January 10: Sri Lanka should create a Ministry for Reconciliation to implement the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in its recently-released report, a Presidential Adviser has suggested.
The suggestion was made by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha, Adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Reconciliation, in a presentation on “Reconciliation, Sri Lanka and the World” made here today at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a leading private think tank.

There is need for concerted action across the board to achieve genuine reconciliation. “Those anxious for reconciliation should endeavour to support government in setting up mechanisms to work quickly and imaginatively towards the goals laid out in the LLRC report. Unfortunately, there seems no urgency at the moment about implementation, or even allocating responsibility for the different tasks,” he said.

According to Prof Wijedasa, what certainly will not work is a Committee of Ministry Secretaries, chaired by someone without executive authority in this regard. “Rather, there should be a Ministry for Reconciliation, charged with fulfilling the recommendations of the Commission as best possible. I would also suggest that it be given a limited life span, of two years perhaps, after which it should have made itself redundant,” he said.

But whoever may head such a ministry, he said there is need of an efficient and experienced Secretary, and dedicated staff, though very few would suffice given that the bulk of the actual work would have to be done by other Ministries.

However, current lethargy, as exemplified for instance by the failure of the Ministry of Education to even think of mechanisms for increasing the supply of competent language teachers—- despite the clear commitment of the President to building up a trilingual society—-makes it clear that innovative ideas and ensuring their implementation would have to come from a dedicated agency.

Prof Wijesinha’s own view is that the recommendations of the Commission can be fulfilled very easily, provided initiative and imagination are brought to bear, along with the will to succeed.

The process of a political settlement too can be expedited if action is taken immediately on recommendations in this regard that are not controversial. For instance, the mechanism of a second chamber to promote regional input into national legislation could be put into operation straightaway. Of course, better training on legislative principles for potential members will be needed.

“We should also be ensuring proper training for local government representatives so that they can use more effectively the powers and resources they do possess, to resolve problems that should not require intervention by distant officials and politicians,”he added.

Reconciliation will not be difficult to achieve, and the LLRF report shows the way. Prof Wijesinha said: “We should not be distracted by insistence on retribution and stress on major political problems, when we can so easily deal with the root causes of resentment and, through setting mechanisms of empowerment in place that are generally acceptable, move on to solutions for more contentious issues.

He went on: “But we should also recognize that the failure thus far of government to work consistently in required areas, to have followed intensively the interim recommendations of the Commission even if common sense had not already indicated the way, has led to suspicions which government must assuage through committed action. As the Commission makes clear with regard to Reconciliation, ‘the responsibility for being the prime mover of this process lies squarely with the Government.’”

January 10, 2012, 9:36 pm/ BY S VENKAT NARAYAN/ Our Special Correspondent


No India-China rivalry in Sri Lanka: Prof Wijesinha

China has made it clear to Sri Lanka that the primacy of our relationship with India is understood, says Wijesinha

Elizabeth Roche

 New Delhi: China has conveyed to Sri Lanka that it understands the primacy of the relationship between India and the island nation, a Sri Lankan MP and adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Tuesday. The India-China rivalry in Sri Lanka was predominantly a Western construct, Rajiva Wijesinha said, adding that at times some Sri Lankan groups too played up the perceived rivalry.

Wijesinha, on a trip to New Delhi ahead of a 16-19 January visit to Sri Lanka by Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna, was also critical of his government’s slow pace of reintegrating minority Tamils into the Sri Lankan political mainstream as he stressed the need to fasttrack the reconciliation process between the Tamils and the majority Sinhalese after the end of the almost three-decade-old civil war on the island nation in May 2009.

“Efforts to present Sri Lanka as a bone of contention between India and China are largely self-serving… given the tendency of the West to function in terms of binary opposites,” Wijesinha said, with regard to China.

“This is also understandable given the manner in which they fought the Cold War but China has made it clear to Sri Lanka that the primacy of our relationship with India is understood. If rivalries on the lines of those that dogged all of us during the Cold War are to develop, they will be primarily economic in character and played out in Africa and similar fields for large-scale investment without any need for hostilities in South Asia,” Wijesinha said in a speech at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

The comments mirror those of Sri Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris and others against the backdrop of increasing Chinese investments in Sri Lanka seen as being within India’s sphere of influence.

Many experts and commentators have expressed concern over increased Chinese activity in India’s periphery—in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal besides the disputed part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan.

According to Wijesinha, Sri Lanka had first offered the contract to develop the Hambantota port—seen as the most prominent symbol of Chinese economic engagement in the country since the end of the civil war—to India. The first phase of the port in southern Sri Lanka, completed in 2010 by the China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd at a cost of $360 million, includes a high-quality passenger terminal, cargo handling, warehousing, bunkering, provisioning, maintenance and repair, medical supplies and customs clearing facilities.

“India said it could not do this, so it was given to China,” Wijesinha said, adding that India was involved in the dredging and refurbishment of the Kankesanturai port in the northern part of Sri Lanka. “India is now moving on this very quickly, previously it was slow,” he said.

He warned that some Sri Lankan groups too could take advantage of perceived India-China rivalry if India and the West were seen to be working together to pressure Colombo on the reconciliation process.

Wijesinha admitted that the Sri Lankan authorities could move more quickly on the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)— set up by the Colombo government at the end of the civil war broadly along the lines of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 1990s. He sought the creation of a separate ministry tasked with fulfilling the recommendations of the report with a limited time span of about two years after which it should be declared redundant.

The LLRC recommendations include investigations into allegations of human rights violations during the last phases of the civil war, increased media freedom and a speedy redressal of the grievances of the Tamils that sparked the civil war decades ago.


Perspectives on Reconciliation

The Reconciliation for Peace Section of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies convened a panel discussion on the topic entitled ‘Reconciliation – the way forward: an assessment of ongoing initiatives, a listing of productive possibilities’ on 15 December 2011 at the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo. The speakers comprised the Presidential Advisor on Reconciliation, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, M.A. Sumanthiran, Member of Parliament and Tamil National Alliance, Mr Eran Wickramaratne, Member of Parliament, Mr V. Muralitharan, Deputy Minister of Resettlement and Chaired by Ambassador Javid Yusuf, Founder-Secretary General, Peace Secretariat for Muslims and Senior Advisor, Ministry of External Affairs.

Panel of speakers

Presidential Advisor Professor Rajiva Wijesinha commenced his presentation by stating that there is a need to overcome the bitterness and suspicion that prompted the terrorism that plagued Sri Lanka for three decades. As much has been done to boost infrastructure development in the North there is a lack of knowledge and awareness of what has been done and this can affect the dividends of such initiatives from being reaped. The putting on record of what has been done would also serve the additional purpose of clarifying what remains to be done. As a prerequisite for development there is a need to provide teachers in the North with the essentials. Another area he identified as needing focus is coherent planning with regards to what is being provided. He proposed a model whereby soldiers worked together with those who need work as one that would assist considerably with reconciliation. Through working and playing together people establish lasting relationships, which has led to efforts to encourage project work as a component of the many educational exchanges that are taking place. The same principle applies to adults.

Reflecting on failures, Professor Wijesinha stated that one major problem faced in Sri Lanka is the lack of a clear agenda for the North and the role of external assistance. Since 2010, we needed to have moved from our request for humanitarian assistance to our need for development assistance. While commending the treatment of surrendees he said that much more needs to be done. He highlighted that more should be done for employment, vocational training, and training in entrepreneurship. He identified key areas where urgent and concerted efforts are necessary, namely, the need to pay more attention to the problems faced by women and children in the conflict areas; the need for conceptual changes in which the government policy on national languages is implemented; the need for a swift movement to arrive at a political solution – by dwelling on the many areas where consensus is within easy reach, so that there is realization that there is little that divides us, and much more that binds us together.

Ambassadors, Foreign & Local delegates present

Mr Sumanthiran stated that he viewed the GoSL’s mode of operation as being contrary to the process of reconciliation. He stressed the fact that there was a lack of clarity on the matter of post-war reconciliation with regards to aspects such as what the definition of reconciliation that the GoSL will be adopting, with whom or between whom the GoSL’s seeks to effect reconciliation, and why reconciliation was seen as a necessity in the first place. He cautioned against the GoSL seeking to reconcile the government security forces with the LTTE leadership or with the Tamil community in general while according little or no place to the victims in the reconciliation process. Speaking on the issue of justice, he remarked that while the GoSL has chosen the route of restorative justice, he is of the view that both restorative and retributive justice is necessary for any genuine reconciliation to take place as the two are not mutually exclusive operations. Both the aforementioned approaches need to be victim-centred. He stated that the GoSL ought to caution against dealing with causes that are relevant only to a certain period of the conflict. Rather, what is needed is a tracing back to the period of 1956 when the violence against Tamils began.

He called on the GoSL to respond to two reports that have been tabled in Parliament that incorporated the concerns of the Tamil peoples; to acknowledge the gravity of the national languages issue as a root cause of the conflict; and to take serious action to apprehend the assailants who attacked a TNA meeting while in progress. This he said was a prerequisite if meaningful reconciliation is to take place.

Mr Eran Wickramaratne began his presentation by stating that he saw reconciliation as having two aspects, namely relational and political aspects. While the majority community tends to favour the former, the minority communities favour the latter. However, both are equally critical prerequisites for reconciliation. Speaking on the relational aspects, he highlighted that creating a sense of inter-dependence between all communities is crucial if minority communities are to feel a part of the fabric of the nation.

The current development drive being witnessed in the country, he said, should not be a substitute for the restoration of dignity on the victims and survivors of the conflict. For there to be true reconciliation he went on to identify the following components as necessary – truth, justice (which is not revenge) restitution, acceptance and dignity. Recognition and acknowledgement of past mistakes were imperative to moving forward.

He noted two positive developments in the current political context – the shift in perception from viewing the conflict as a terrorist problem to acknowledgement of the need for a political settlement; and rather than operating through a top-down approach of political patronage and proxies there is now a recognition of the need to engage elected representatives by the Tamil community.

He urged the strengthening of political will for implementation of the language policy similar to the South African model; the need to dismantle the current perception that any entity that asks for accountability is somehow and in some way related to the LTTE movement; the identification of the problem as much wider than that can be covered through GoSL negotiations with the TNA; stressed the importance of demilitarization where the people are not viewed as subjects but rather as citizens under a civilian administration highlighting the need for the strengthening of the establishment of the latter form of government.

Mr V Muralitharan commenced his presentation by stating that the currently ensuing blame-game is a significant setback and obstacle to moving the country towards reconciliation. He recommended that while there is no doubt that the GoSL has faltered on some accounts this does not mean that the many achievements should be ignored. Any shortcomings by the GoSL ought to be taken up constructively with the relevant authorities. He went on to note the important role that the international community has to play in supporting the process of reconciliation. Pointing out that, as the conflict was a long-drawn out affair, the fallouts cannot be addressed overnight and that reconciliation is a process which by definition takes time, effort and patience, the Deputy Minister of Resettlement opined that any route to moving the country forward ought not to focus on the past issues, concerns and violations as such an approach will only resurrect old memories and negativities.

Audience compromising of INGOs, NGOs & government officials

Mr Javid Yusuf proposed the formulation and drafting of a National Policy on Reconciliation that is arrived at with consultation of all communities and concerned persons while addressing the root causes of the conflict. He went further to state that as the Tamil community is a bruised and wounded community there remains a need for a state-led initiative on individual and collective healing. This is closely linked to his analysis of the conflict as being one between the Tamil community and the state rather than one that was deliberately designed to oppress the minority communities by the majority Sinhalese community. He commended the GoSL’s efforts in the Northern and Eastern rehabilitation and resettlement processes and called on the GoSL to take the important next step by reaching out to the Tamil community to address their concerns and grievances. The Muslim community has oft been caught in the cross-fires and hence need to be taken seriously in any endeavour to move the country forward to lasting peace and stability. Mr Yusuf urged the minority communities to reposition themselves – by conducting themselves as equals. This can be achieved by ceasing to speak only on issues affecting their respective communities but rather to speak on national issues and leading national campaigns.

By Salma Yusuf

The Nitty Gritty of ‘Moving On’: National Reconciliation Unit

Even as the world focussed on what the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) would produce after months of hearings, President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up a ‘National Reconciliation Unit’ to facilitate the work of his Adviser on Reconciliation. All these in addition to the natural processes of reconciliation that the end of conflict engenders, boosted of course by concrete policies to put in place necessary infrastructure, resettle the displaced, clear landmines and reinvigorate economic activity, not to mention the rehabilitation and reintegration of thousands of ex-combatants – a practice unheard of in many parts of the world when it comes to people affiliated with terrorist organisations. The Advisor’s terms of reference included monitoring and reporting to the President on progress with regard to the Interim Recommendations of the LLRC, and promoting appropriate activities for this purpose through the relevant Ministries.

The Nation’ spoke with Pushpi Weerakoon, Coordinator of the Unit, on the mandate, work and challenges of this body.
Q: Could you elaborate on the power, authority and capacity of the unit?
The Office has no powers or executive authority. Apart from two minor staff, it has only an IT officer. MP’s secretary and office aide also contribute. However, much support is provided by members of the Reconciliation Youth Forum that comprises committed youngsters worked in the North and East in related activity developing initiatives and record achievements.

In addition to the Reconciliation website,, we have started a blog – – and a You Tube channel – sri Lanka. You can also follow us on twitter @rcncilesrilanka and on Facebook on Sri Lankan Reconciliation Youth Forum.

Other initiatives include Civil Society Partners for Reconciliation which brings together relevant government organisations with civil society and ambassadors and non-governmental organisations (Rotary, Save the Children etc) to suggest initiatives. This has led to a project in sustainable agriculture to support ex-combatants. We hope that Japan would support it through IOM. In addition, a proposal for vocational training in Mullaitivu with socialisation and soft skills on the lines of the programmes Aide et Action is now being materialised in Vavuniya.
We have also set up a body called Religion, Education and Pluralism to develop educational initiatives as suggested when the Adviser was appointed, and feel this is particularly important in view of the vision advanced by the President in his budget speech.

Based on recommendations of some of these groups, we have set up District Reconciliation Committees in three Northern Districts and hope to do the same in the other two as well. We had productive input from the local officials who attended about problems and possible solutions with the police. Some committed social workers also actively contribute.

We have initiated discussions with UNESCO about school activities, and begun a discussion group on international relations though we are awaiting a response from the Ministry of External Affairs in this regard. We were pleased that an NGO which was sending young parliamentarians abroad initiated a familiarisation session in this regard, and hope we could start something within Parliament too, perhaps through the Friendship Associations, since there are a number of young parliamentarians with the capacity to develop into excellent international communicators if only we do some initial familiarisation with relevant issues.

We do not really influence policy, since we need to liaise with the Secretary to the President. However a meeting is planned shortly to enable us to move ahead.

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha (Advisor to H.E. the president), Pushpi Weerakoon (Coordinator- Reconciliation Unit), Vedha Karuppiah (IOM rep Jaffna) & Kapila (Aid et Action Project Manager) with the staff & students of the Aid Et Action ilead vocational centre during their cultural show)


IOM partners with the Reconciliation Unit to provide Logistic support. IOM & Reconciliation Unit colleagues at the Kilinochchi IOM compound.

Q: What are the main obstacles to reconciliation as per your mandate?

The main obstacle is the absence of any sense of urgency amongst those who should be working actively to promote reconciliation. Most ministers and officials with whom we discuss matters are sympathetic but have not really conceptualised the manner in which reconciliation initiatives, as laid out in the President’s letter of appointment, should be carried out. Since we have no executive powers, we cannot really act, and often it takes a very long time to get responses.
However, we have had excellent and swift assistance from the Governor and District Secretaries of the Northern Province, and we hope the DRCs will develop apace. But we also need input from line ministries about streamlining activities and coordinating with other relevant actors, whilst also developing better mechanisms to record and analyse the ground situation.

Q: How do you understand the idea of ‘reconciliation’?

My guru, the father of conflict transformation, Prof. John Paul Lederach calls it “a meeting ground where trust and mercy have met, and where justice and peace have kissed.” In simpler terms, it’s about bringing people together to move them beyond the past through reestablishing trust and normalcy, forgiving each other, in a justifiable society where the previous belligerents would be able to coexist peacefully. In Sri Lanka, a successful reconciliation process would pave way to victims and offenders of both the main fractions of the conflict not only to coexist peacefully but also to work for the betterment of our next generation. It should rekindle mutual respect among ethnicities such as Sinhala and Tamil and also among different fractions of single ethnicities such as Northern and Southern Tamils and Muslims. All communities should accept excombatants/beneficiaries, military and the police, war widows and disabled into their localities with open arms. There should be a positive atmosphere for the natural day-to-day activities to progress without fear and prejudice. Most importantly the youth who are cut off from the rest of the country for over two decades and made to think the southerners were of different nature, must mingle together and share their values and cultures to disperse the misunderstandings. Even though such a process will never be achieved over night, even small steps taken without delay could lay a foundation for a lasting relation.

Pushpi met a group of Kilinochchi youths who attended the Rotary National Youth Exchange program in Colombo this July

Q: What are the programmes in the pipeline?

The meetings held in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi to set up the reconciliation units provided a forum for a greater number of government officials in the education, health, agriculture , army and the police to vocalise their concerns. An urgent need for safe houses (currently the only safe house available is in Jaffna) for young unmarried mothers, education on sexual and reproductive health, income generating activities for war widows, vocational training for youths, lack of English and Maths teachers, lack of extracurricular activities and cultural exchange programs in the schools, need for Tamil speaking WPCs and security concerns for all including ex-combatants were raised at the forum.

To address these issues we have requested the GA and Zonal directors to provide us with lists of Maths, Science and English teachers available in the area. Police officers present at the meeting were to provide with a list of councellors available and also circulate notices within schools with information on how to join the police force. The government officers were also advised to take an account of the child rights promoting officers and Women development officers available. We also suggested the authorities to implement community structures for the safety of women and children and have consultative meetings in the police and issue a monthly report. The agricultural officers were encouraged to approach private sector to implement and enhance corporative centres among local farmers.

Our civil society and youth forum members have now begun to collect resources to implement projects to address some pressing issues raised at these two initial meetings. Among them would be a setting up of computer centre in Mullaitivu, vocational training centre in Elenkopurm village in Theravil GN in PTK and a cultural centre in Trincomalee. We have already located a rundown building to be refurbished in PTK and an orphanage in Kilinochchi which has potentials to house a vocational training centre. Rotary club of Colombo Mid Town and East, several private computer companies, foreign colleges and individual diaspora members have already expressed their interests to join us to set up these initiatives.

Setting up the Reconciliation Unit in Vavuniya in the presence of Educational, Agricultural, Health officers, Army, Police and Religious representatives.

Meeting the government agents and setting up of the Reconciliation Unit in Kilinochchi

With the students at the Kilinochchi MV College Psycho social Happiness centre

Key Programmes of the Unit:

• Developing and promoting programmes to rehabilitate and reintegrate former combatants as concerned and productive citizens of a united Sri Lanka.

• Promoting initiatives in relevant ministries to encourage national and international cooperation for these purposes

• Advising institutes concerned with the promotion of international relations with regard to programmes to strengthen and develop appropriate knowledge and skills.
• Encouraging development of activities in the link language and in particular projects to ensure interaction between different communities.
• Devising and promoting programmes to develop teaching and teacher training with the link language and initiate international volunteer support for this purpose.
• Assisting in promoting initiatives to ensure protection of human rights and develop training programmes for this purpose, and disseminate information regarding progress in this regard.
• Supporting the efforts of the armed forces in community development initiatives in the North and East and promoting special initiatives in this regard.
• Ensuring widespread communication of government initiatives in reconciliation and human rights.