I move now to the last days of 2008 and the brilliant initiative of General Chandrasiri, Security Forces Commander in Jaffna, to have an exhibition there promote employment for the young. Civilians in government were not capable of such thought or planning, and I began to realize that it was the military rather than government that best understood the need to ensure productive economic activity after the war. Though Chandrasiri did not want politicians involved, and had asked only me to be Chief Guest, Douglas Devananda elbowed himself in, so Chandrasiri also asked the saintly Bishop of Jaffna to also be a chief guest to maintain a balance.

The pictures are of my visit to Jaffna on December 27th 2008, beginning with one of the Bishop of Jaffna at the Exhibition

17. Safety Day and the Future Minds Exhibition in Jaffna

But I had to leave early the next day, having breakfast at Derrick’s and then going to Dharmaraja College since it was World Safety day and the annual event our Ministry organized every year was there on this occasion. I had to make the Welcome Speech and then sit through many speeches and the distribution of awards, but I skipped lunch and hastened back to Colombo for some work at the office.

The next morning I had to fly to Jaffna, the airforce allowing me to go in the cockpit, since the Jaffna Commander, General Chandrasiri, had organized what he called a Future Minds Exhibition and has asked me to be Chief Guest. It was a great idea and showcased opportunities, in particular for the young, which he was keen to show would be available when peace was achieved.

He had not wanted politicians but Douglas Devananda, who had bravely resisted the LTTE over the years, had asked to be there and Chandrasiri could not refuse. So he also asked the Bishop of Jaffna to be a third Chief Guest and that worked out reasonably well for he was highly respected by all.

I had breakfast at the Commander’s Chalet in Palaly and then went into Jaffna in an armoured car, which I had also had to use in Mannar and on the road to Omanthai. The Exhibition was at the Vembadi and Jaffna Central schools and, though security was tight outside we were able to wander through the stalls and talk to participants. Many businesses from Colombo had got involved, and Chandrasiri had also arranged for a talent show which I gather proved enormously popular in the night. But I did not stay for this,  flying back to Colombo after lunch at his chalet, and going to the office to do some work.

The next day was Sunday but I did a lot of work at home, and then went to the SCOPP officer, where Gamini Hettiarachchi who headed the Disaster Management Centre dropped in for we were in the process of building a new office for them. And then I went to the airport for a week over the New Year with friends in Thailand.