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Things are looking up for the IDPs

Health conditions are rapidly
improving in IDP camps

Without free media, rumour and nonsense fills the void. I have heard from the diaspora that Buddhist monks are hijacking relief convoys and worse. From locals Iíve heard that IDPs are wealthy because theyíve deposited Rs. 1 billion in mobile banks (an average of about Rs. 3,500 per IDP). Since thereís no independent verification you really have to see for yourself. I have traveled as much as I can and I can tell you, itís not as bad as you might imagine. Itís also not very good. It is getting better, and I hope that story gets out.

Menik Farm

I recently went into Menik Farm proper for the first time. Iíve been on the outskirts and the hospitals, but this time I went to Zone Four. I met a Tamil/Sinhala translator, letís call her Ms. Menik. Her family was herded into Mullativu during the war and they tried to survive in a bunker. She said the LTTE was shooting people and her husband hid to avoid being conscripted. He urinated into bottles rather than leave the bunker. The family (with child) is now safe in Menik Farm. She said they would like to leave and go to family in Vavuniya. Till then sheís working as a translator in the clinics.

Ms. Menik is an admirable and confident woman making the best she can of a bad situation. She is not in any way backward or dumb, nor are any of the IDPs Iíve met. These people have homes, skills, cattle, houses, lands. Hopes and dreams. They dress well, they speak well and they are as generally respectable as any Sri Lankan. I believe that we need to expedite their rights not for their sake, but for ours. All of us can contribute to our motherland, given the freedom to do so.


In Dambulla I met an Indian doing demining work in Mannar. I asked him point blank if mines actually prevent resettlement or if that was just an excuse. He smiled and said it was a real problem. Civilian areas are heavily mined as it takes a lot of time and money to clear them with the 99.6% accuracy required.

The army is doing its own demining and the rest is coordinated by the Ministry of Nation Building with local and international partners. And yes, INGOs. For all that they are demonised, NGOs, like a free media, actually can have a positive role to play in rebuilding Sri Lanka.

I asked him how they demine and he joked that it was confidential. I mentioned elephants but he said itís not that. I looked it up and the main technique seems to be manual metal detection. This is slow and expensive, about $1-2 million per square kilometer (according to Wikipedia). This is not an easy job but ó thanks to the government, army, and INGOs ó it is happening. But itís not a story you hear that much about.


I also traveled to Trincomalee to visit some small and medium businesses. The local people there are ready to go back to work, they are ready to fish, build, trade and develop. In fact they are looking for investment, and I think that people that get in now are going to make a lot of money.

For example, one established company is building the first major condominium complex on prime land in Trinco town and along the Nilaveli Road. Another man is expanding his rice mill just as they are finishing the Kiniya bridge. Another wants to restart his grinding mill.

In fact, business is ready to boom all over Sri Lanka, from Hambantota to Kurunegala to Vavuniya. I invite you to visit to see some of the investment opportunities. That BizPAct conference also hosted many from the diaspora communities (Sinhala, Tamil, Burgher, etc) and they were excited and ready to contribute. Thatís another story that doesnít get out either, amidst all the flag waving and fasting unto death.

Good news

These are just a few of the positive stories and people Iíve found throughout Sri Lanka in just the last week. The disease rate in the camps has dropped dramatically thanks to the hard work of the Ministry of Health doctors, nurses and volunteers. Tenative fishing has resumed in the north and east. Families are being reunited, grama sevekas are set up in the camps with lists of names, and children are going to school. These are all things that I have seen or heard from direct sources.

However, these stories are not yet getting out. I cannot get anyone to go on record and I still worry. What does get out is the arrest of the Irudinaís astrologist for predicting the Presidentís ouster. Or Canadian politician Bob Rae being kicked out of the country.

Personally, I think these are pointless distractions from the real positive work going on in the country. The government is doing a pretty good job with the IDP and development situation so far. Things are looking up. Sri Lanka is finally freeing itself from years of war and stagnation. We might as well free the media and let people know. (









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