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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
fact, business is ready to boom all over Sri Lanka, from
Hambantota to Kurunegala to Vavuniya. I invite you to
visit bizpact.org 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.
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
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. (www.indi.ca)