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I describe here the first reconciliation meeting I held that was hosted by an embassy, the Italian. We had just got a new Italian ambassador, Rubens Federe, who was immensely lively and helpful. Sadly soon after he arrived his wife fell ill and he had to resign the position and go back home to look after her, though very soon she died.

He could not however come back, but his energetic deputy Luca Rubagotti continued to help, and became a great friend.

The pictures are of both of them, and of a couple of CLD stalwarts, Vasantha Senanayake and Dharmalingam Sidharthan of PLOTE

39 Initial reconciliation meetings

Giles and Jane Vicat left on Tuesday August 31st, and I went to the cottage for dinner that night, mainly so I could finish the text of ‘Twentieth Century Classics’. I managed to dispatch it to CUP the next evening, and spent the next day getting material ready for the blog I had started, getting back to Colombo only on Friday morning and then, after dinner at the Japanese ambassador’s, going to Alu. I had to leave for Kandy after breakfast next morning but the scheduled Board meeting did not take place so I got back to Alu for lunch and a nap and tea on the lawn before dinner. Next day Ismeth ad Dileeni and their daughter came and I stayed for lunch before heading off to the cottage for a night, going to Colombo next morning.

That week we had the first meeting hosted by an embassy in pursuit of Reconciliation. After SCOPP was closed down I had continued to press for a mechanism to promote reconciliation and it had been agreed that I would be appointed Adviser on Reconciliation to the President, but the letter was delayed. Since then I had no formal status, I decided to work through the Council for Liberal Democracy, which Chanaka Amaratunga had set up in the early eighties. It had been subsumed rather into the Liberal Party, but had kept its separate identity for the implementation of projects, and in fact I had initiated a couple after Chanaka died with support from the Americans at the turn of the century. One had been very successful, but the next one had fallen apart when the Civil Servant we had asked to conduct it turned out to be totally unreliable and failed to turn up for the training sessions we had arranged.

So work had lapsed, but now this seemed the ideal instrument through which to work and the diplomats took up the idea eagerly. I did not ask them for funds, but suggested they host meetings together with the CLD to discuss particular issues. The first such meeting took place at the Italian ambassador’s on Wednesday September 8th.

Meanwhile Felix Vicat had turned up, after his parents left, on a grant from his university to do some research on the war. I put him in touch with army personnel, and asked Kithsiri to look after him, and then I went away on the 11th to Brussels via England, and then to Liverpool for the Liberal Democrat Conference for which CALD had sponsored a delegation.

This post begins to describe the work I tried to do as a parliamentarian to promote reconciliation, even though I did not as yet have any formal role in this regard. I was the interlocutor of choice for many diplomats, whom I had worked with during the war, and I found most of them generally positive. The exceptions in those days were the British and the Germans, but after two insidious High Commissioners the British sent after the war a remarkably decent man, John Rankin, who was very pleasant and, within the framework of British policy, did his best to find areas of agreement.

It is a great pity that we had G L Peiris as Foreign Minister at the time, for he made no effort at all to win friends abroad, confining himself to promoting his own ambitions through patrons in Sri Lanka. Indeed I gathered later, from Palitha Kohona, that he had been invited to Washington by Hillary Clinton but refused to go on the grounds that she would scold him. So the chance to work with the Americans, when we still had world respect for the war victory, was lost, and Hillary’s principal agent in Colombo, the Political Affairs Officer Paul Carter, in the end won the battle against more conciliatory elements in the Embassy.

38 Trying to find a role

In August 2010 I had a brief holiday in Thailand with friends, and having got back on the 13th was off again on Monday the 16th for the CALD Youth Caucus in Taiwan, getting back on the 21st. Then on the 24th I went to Kandy, taking Giles and Jane Vicat, Felix’s parents who had come to tour Sri Lanka. I put them up in a guesthouse since I did not want to worry Derrick and Ayra, but stayed with them myself, to take the Vicats to the Perahera that evening. And the next day I took them via Nuwara Eliya to Belihuloya, where we stayed at the lovely resthouse, and had one of my former Jayewardenepura students who now headed the Languages Department to join us for dinner. 

I had been asked there for a Symposium, which I attended next morning while the Vicats were shown the area, and then I returned to Colombo having sent them off to Tissamaharama so they could visit Yala. Then on the following Sunday I went to the cottage where I had the Vicats for dinner, and then having got back to Colombo next morning I had a dinner for them at home, with the Italian and American ambassadors.

My diary is full of meetings with diplomats during this period, I think because they thought me the keenest person in government on reconciliation, in a context when nothing was moving. Mahinda Rajapaksa seemed only to be thinking of consolidating his power by removing term limits and G L Peiris as Foreign Minister was not at all concerned about what the world at large thought – or was plotting – but anxious only to keep in with the President and whomsoever he thought had influence in that quarter, so as to achieve his own ambition of being made Prime Minister. So he actually rejected an invitation from Hillary Clinton to see her in Washington, obviously ignorant of the fact that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

This post describes my disillusionment with Parliament, where ordinary members had no scope for creativity or contributing to policy at all. Much more interesting were my travels in the country, the people I visited, and the friends who visited me.

The pictures are of individuals who contributed to the emasculation of Parliament, Ravi Karunanayake who filled the schedule for Private Members Bills with a farrago of nonsense, and Bandula Gunawardena who destroyed the enthusiasm of new members of parliament by dragging on consultations on a new Education Act, ensuring thus that it could not be finalized during the term of that parliament – even though a good draft that only required a little adjustment had been put before us at the start.

But there are a couple of positive people, Laki Senanayake from when I saw him at his retreat in Dambulla, and Bruce from a long ago holiday in Cornwall, top left.

37 Disappointment in Parliament

And then finally, the following Saturday, July 17th I got out to Alu, in time for lunch. Suren was there, and Laki Senanayake joined us for dinner that evening from his retreat in Dambulla. Sadly I had to leave next morning after breakfast for the Trinity Board in Kandy, after which I went to the cottage. But I went back to Colombo the next morning, after visiting the school where I wanted to put up the new building.

On the Tuesday I had my old flatmate Bruce Balden and his family to Parliament for lunch, and then home for dinner, and also a couple of British Liberal Democrats who had come to see how they could help the party. That Friday I got to the cottage after lunch but had to get back after breakfast on Sunday for the Liberal Party Executive Committee meeting. And on Wednesday I went to Negombo where Bruce had been staying for drinks with him and then dinner with another old friend who was visiting.

That Saturday I went to Kandy for lunch with Derrick and an old friend of Ayra and my aunt Lakshmi, to whom I sent some money each month, an obligation my mother had taken over from Lakshmi. And that night we had two of Ayra’s sisters who were also staying for dinner. But the next day, August 1st, was sad for I went to Alu after breakfast for the three month almsgiving for Anil and the interment of his ashes. From there I went to the cottage after lunch, but had to be back in Colombo the next afternoon.

 I was finding Parliament tedious. Questions went unanswered. There was no opportunity for private members’ motions for Ravi Karunanayake had filled the agenda with a hundred trivial motions and these were taken up in order of submission. My effort to reach consensus on issues with the opposition, through an adjournment motion signed across parties was hit on the head by the President who brought up the attempt at a Group Meeting, though without mentioning names, and said this was inappropriate.

Consultative Committees were a joke, for members were not interested in policies or principles, only in parochial issues. I did find interesting my work on the Standing Orders Committee to which I had been appointed to my surprise, but just as we were making progress the Speaker stopped summoning the committee and ignored my appeals that it restart.

It was only work on the Committee on Public Enterprises which seemed productive. The special committee to discuss the New Education Act, which had seemed promising, turned into a joke, for Bandula Goonewardena who was the Minister was obviously not inclined to take the act forward and insisted on consulting anyone who wanted to comment, at great length so that soon members of the committee, who had flocked to the meetings initially, dropped off.

I suppose symptomatic of my disillusionment was that, when a workshop for government MPs was arranged at the Riverina hotel, I did not stay, but stayed at my cottage on the Friday night, August 6th, and went up for the day on Saturday. I was back at the cottage that night, and went up again next morning after breakfast, for a tedious morning before it concluded.

There was another wedding almost immediately afterwards, that of Chamil, the army officer who had worked for me at the Ministry and was now on my personal staff, along with four others, two drivers and a very capable secretary from the Peace Secretariat, and a former Sabaragamuwa student seconded as a research officer from the ministry for which he worked. And there was also much international travel at this time, in addition to a farewell lunch at my cottage for some envoys who had become good friends.

The pictures are of Chamil’s wedding, of Bandara and Anuruddha another former student who also worked for me later, of the Norwegian ambassador Tore Hattrem and the Swiss Ruth Flint, and of Peter Rowe, though this was at the cottage during my own 60th birthday celebration four years later.

36 Early days in Parliament

Malkanthi’s wedding was in Galle, on May 24th, and on the 26th I went to the homecoming of the couple at Horana. But I could not stay that night at the cottage, for I had to be back in Colombo, to lend my father’s car to Chamil for his wedding.

Having served as my coordinating secretary at the Ministry, he was now on my personal staff as a Member of Parliament. I also had my old student from Sabaragamuwa, Bandara, who had been a teaching assistant at the Military Academy when I coordinated their degree course, as my research officer, and Rekha who had been at the Peace Secretariat, as my Secretary. They were all very good workers, whereas I gather many of my colleagues simply appointed friends and relations and some indeed, as I found whether parliament officials asked whether they should be paid or the money for their salaries should come to me, were employed only to enhance their employer’s perquisites.

Chamil’s wedding was in Dambulla, so I went up that day to Alu, where I was able to sit on the lawn under a full moon to talk to Ena before dinner. And having been joined for breakfast next morning by Raji, I went to the wedding where I had to sign, and then got back to Colombo to emplane that night for Bangkok where I had promised to go to the 60th birthday dinner of Peter Rowe, who had been Australian High Commissioner in Colombo ten years previously and become a great friend.

I was back the next night, Sunday May 30th, and got to the cottage after lunch the following Saturday, where on the Sunday I had the Swiss and Norwegian ambassadors, who were leaving, for lunch with their spouses. By now the routine was drinks in the room over the new garage, lunch in the room below, and sometimes for smaller groups coffee on the veranda of my old little cottage.

I was back in Colombo for breakfast on the Monday, with Parliament meeting that week, and then on the Thursday I had to go to Berlin for a Liberal International meeting and then on to London. I got back only on the 21st, but got to the cottage for the night of the 22nd, for I missed the place, though I had to be back in Colombo the next morning. And then the next day I was off for a CALD meeting in Manila, and the inauguration of President Aquino.

Back in Colombo on the night of Friday July 2nd, I got to the cottage only after lunch on the Sunday, again just for a night before getting back next morning since, unusually because of the budget, Parliament was meeting on a Monday. After the vote on the Friday, I got to the cottage on Saturday for lunch, and was able to stay till Monday morning.

This post describes my entry into Parliament, and the beginnings of work, though in that first month I also had a sad bereavement, and also a very domestic wedding.

I have numbered consecutively from the Peace Secretariat posts because Parliament was in a sense a continuation of that and Ministry work, my eight years in public life.

The pictures are from the wedding, including with my staff at the picturesque lake nearby; and then of Anil, with his mother and at his wedding and then in 1989 at the wedding of his sister.

35 A bereavement and a wedding after entry into Parliament

After my swearing in at Parliament on the 22nd, I only got to the cottage on the 26th, but was able to stay, doing much writing, till the morning of the 28th, and then got there again on Sunday 2nd May. On the 3rd I looked at a few schools in the area, since I thought I should do what I could for the area though I was on the National List.

But I realized soon that MPs from the area thought I was trying to muscle in, so all I did for the vicinity, in addition to getting volunteer English teachers for the local schools, was to put up a new building in the Junior  School through my decentralized budget and also develop a ruined building at the temple as a vocational training centre. Later, when I started vocational training centres in the district on the lines of the very successful ones in the North, I placed them in schools in different electorates.

Then on the 13th I had a night in Kandy with Derrick and Ayra for Trinity was felicitating its old boys who had got into Parliament and as a member of the Board I was also included. But I got back to Colombo and the next day I saw Ena’s son Anil in hospital, for he was dying. And that evening I went to the cottage where I had my father and my niece Anisha and a few old friends for lunch, to celebrate my 56th birthday.

Ena was staying at Shanthi’s and I was there regularly over the next few days. Anil died on the 20th and was cremated that very aftern oon, and then on the 20th I took her and her daughter, who had managed to get to Colombo, and Anil’s wife Averil, up to Alu, though I had to leave the next day after lunch, for which we were joined also by Raji and his family. I took Kus and Averil with me and on the way back I dropped in at the cemetery at Kurunagala which I did a couple of times each year, for I knew no one else visited the graves of my grandmother’s family and I did not want them forgotten. Ena’s grandfather, brother of my great-grandmother, and his son’s family were in the next lot, which Kusum saw for the first time.

The next morning I had to go to Galle, to sign at the wedding of Malkanthi, daughter of Ekman, who was still at Lakmahal having come there as the boy in the late fifties. He had worked at Lake House, and after he retired his daughter Janaki was given a job there. She brought her son to Lakmahal for schooling in Colombo, and Malkanthi to look after him, whereupon Kithsiri arranged a marriage between her and a cousin of his.

My father had been asked to sign the register but he was not well enough to go so I had to step in, and was quite pleased to see the delightful rural setting near a tank where Ekman lived.

This last post of work before I became a Member of Parliament notes too the delay in finalizing the National List, which I think put paid to my assumption that I would be a Minister. But the forces against me were too powerful, and indeed recently I was told how Wimal Weerawansa had lobbied intensively, on the grounds that I was too close to foreigners. And so the chance was lost for productive educational reform.

The pictures are of those responsible for the continuing mess in education, when so many reforms could have been achieved so quickly had I been the Minister in 2010. But Mahinda Rajapaksa gave in to pressures and what I see as his very naive approach to expertise, forgetting even the reforms he himself had pledged.

34 Delay in getting into Parliament

On the evening of my helicopter trip to Kandy, Sunday the 7th of March, I left for Amparai with Nirmali who was continuing her work in English education in the East. We stayed at the Ariyawan, a new hotel she had found, having had tea en route at the Saranga in Wellawaya where we used to stay during our training programmes in the region two decades earlier.

I saw the GA at the kachcheri next morning and then we had lunch with my Sabaragamuwa student Jinnah Maulana before seeing the tsunami warning tower the Ministry had set up. I also visited an international school set up recently and then went back to the Ariyawan for another night. Next morning I visited the South Eastern University where I had served as a consultant for many years for their English programmes, spoke to the Vice-Chancellor and my student Sameem, originally from the Trinco AUC before joining Sabaragamuwa, who was now on the staff, and talked to the students before lunch with the Vice-Chancellor. Jinnah then turned up with handloom sarongs which Ena also admired and had wanted, and then after another English class we headed back to Colombo.

I had no office to go to now, but there was much to do, regular physiotherapy for my father, and lots of articles including a new series I started on novelists which CUP India later published as 20th Century Classics under its Foundation Books imprint. Then on the 18th I went after breakfast to Alu for a day of talking to Ena, with tea on the lawn after an afternoon nap. Her grand-nephew Pevinda joined us for lunch next day after which I had to return to Colombo.

On the following Tuesday I went to the cottage after breakfast but got back next morning for an interview and then an HR Action Plan meeting. The next day our Danish friends came to stay, Lene and Finn whom my parents had known in Canada fifty years earlier, and their son Michael – who had regularly visited Sri Lanka over the years – and his new partner. His younger sister and her family also came but they stayed with Anila.

The next day, Friday the 26th of March, I went to Kandy to stay with Derrick, but came back the next day after the Trinity Board meeting. The following Thursday I took Lene and Finn to the cottage for lunch but then brought them back, and sadly could not join them when Anila took them the next day to Aluwihare.

The Danes left on Tuesday April 6th when the Americans gave me lunch at Tintagel, the British following the next day at the Paradise Café. The next day was the election but then, though the government won handsomely, nominations on the National List were delayed for there had been irregularities in a few places and the numbers for List allocations could not be calculated till all the results were finalized. The repolling in the affected areas happened over a week later.

The time in between was tedious, despite several interviews, and I only got to the cottage for one night, the 13th, so I could celebrate the new year with Kithsiri and his family though I went back to Colombo after lunch and was constantly at Anila’s over the next few days for my father was staying with her. And though finally on Wednesday April 21st it was announced that I was appointed to Parliament, the delay had proved fatal with regard to what had been widely expected, that I would be in the Cabinet. Those who had been declared elected on the 9th were able to press for what they wanted, and those who disliked me and perhaps deplored my pluralistic outlook could pressurize Mahinda Rajapaksa to leave me out.

Kumar Rupesinghe was surprised I was not lobbying but that was not something I could do. Kumar himself tried valiantly, hoping I would be made Minister of Education for he felt that was the only hope for the reforms so urgently needed, but he told me Lalith Weeratunge had told him they had lined up someone much better. This was Bandula Goonewardene, amongst the more ridiculous apppointments Mahinda Rajapaksa made to his cabinet, perhaps on the grounds that he was a renowned tuition master and would know what to do to reform the education system.   

In this post I note my resignation for the Ministry so as to be on the government National List for Parliament. I was still trying to work towards productive forms, particularly with regard to English teaching.

The pictures are of Tara de Mel and Nirupama Rao who had been helpful as High Commissioner when we first started English medium, and continued so as Foreign Ministry Secretary in Delhi; of Sunimal Fernando whom Mahinda Rajapaksa entrusted with English, which proved unproductive; and of Kumar Rupesinghe who was keen on change and pushed hard to no avail for me to be made Minister of Education after the election.

The aftermath of the Presidential election

There were lots of interviews then, and much to write, but I went up on Friday to Kandy to stay with Derrick, before the Trinity Board the next day after which I got back to Colombo. That Wednesday I went to Vavuniya where I met Chamil Munasinghe, the last senior officer left there of those I had worked with during the war. The next day I went with staff from the CBSM project, and Colonel Dayan Athukoralage who had been my military counterpart at the SLMA in coordinating the academic component of the degree programme, to attend independence day celebrations at a couple of the rehabilitation centres. Dayan had left the SLMA now but still helped with intelligence work, and had entered enthusiastically into the CBSM programme which he saw as a key to promoting reconciliation.

I went on then to a Sinhalese resettled village, before getting back to the Rehab centre for lunch and a meeting with WFP and USAID which was keen to be involved, and then went on to Mannar to see more centres before getting to the camp for dinner and the night. The next day I saw the GA and the CBSM staff at the kachcheri, before getting back to Colombo via the Mannar Puttalam Road on the edge of the Wilpattu park. And after meeting Kumar Rupesinghe who was trying to push Mahinda Rajapaksa into a coherent reform programme, I went to the cottage to stay over the weekend in my upper room.

But then I had to be in Delhi in February for a meeting of Aide et Action, the education NGO on the South Asia Board of which I now sat, going immediately I got back to Colombo on Sunday the 14th to the Tamarind Tree hotel near the airport for a provincial Disaster Management workshop. There was another workshop later that week at the Uswettikaiyawa Palm Village hotel on the supplementary learning materials I had persuaded the UN to produce, and there I told the Minister that I had handed in a letter of resignation in case the government was prepared to put me on the National List for the forthcoming election. I had had to give this in while not being sure of the outcome for I was due to go abroad the following day for a meeting in the Philippines on disaster risk reduction.

I got back late on the 24th to find my resignation, from the Ministry, and also from the university from which I had been seconded, had been activated. I bade my farewells that afternoon at the Ministry, though there were some certificates to  be given out the next day, and I still continued with my work on finalizing the National Action Plan on Human Rights.

There was also much else to do because the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats was meeting in Colombo on the 1st of March, and I was due to take over the Chair. And then on the 26th my father fell and hurt himself badly so he had to be attended to, though fortunately the damage was not too serious. But all went well, including the dinner I hosted at home on the 2nd which my father was able to attend, impressive as ever though he was now nearing 90.

I stayed at home the next weekend for on the Sunday I had to go by helicopter to Kandy along with the Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Lalith and the Education Minister for the opening of the Penideniya Teacher Training Centre for which expertise was being provided by the Central Institute for English and Foreign Languages in Hyderabad. This had been at my suggestion, for I had been in touch with CIEFL when I had been working on English medium with Tara de Mel, and also with Nirupama who was High Commissioner in Sri Lanka then and very positive about my suggestion that low cost Indian publications be shared with us.

But with changes of personnel those initiatives had come to nothing, and I fear the same happened now, though changes in India also contributed as did the lack of experience of the person the President had put in charge of English at the Secretariat, the sociologist Sunimal Fernando.

This post describes my last major achievement as Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights when, with the cooperation of all government agencies involved, we halved to about 2000 the number of those in custody on suspicion of terrorist activities, by affirming the principle that people should either be charged or released. I also record a visit to the East to promote training and reconstruction, when we were still full of hope that the government would work swiftly on developing training and economic activity for the people liberated from the LTTE. But planning was hopelessly inadequate, and indeed the paper the Secretary to the Ministry of Policy and Plan Implementation and I had done, about expanding its role, was ignored and the Ministry was abolished.

On the positive side it notes my checking on resettlement, and my relief that there was no trace then of government introducing new Sinhalese settlements to the North. Indeed I was touched at the reminiscences of the families returning to places from which they had been chased out by the LTTE in the darkest days of the war.

32 Efforts through the Ministry to release detainees, and a visit to the East

The following week I had another meeting of the Detention Committee that had been set up after the war ended. As Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights, I had kept noting the need to either charge or release the many prisoners held under emergency regulations, but I had not thought I could press on this given the fear of suicide bombers.

But after the war I had pointed out that there was minimal risk in releasing those against whom there was no clear evidence, and the President had then appointed a committee which I chaired, including the army and the police and the prisons and the Attorney General’s Department. Following the guidelines I laid down, and active cooperation from all parties, we reduced the number of those in detention from 4000 to 2000 in the few months I had before giving up my ministerial position.

Then the next day I went East, where Nirmali was running workshops for teachers. I met the GA at the kachcheri and the CBSM staff and also Karuna, who had left the LTTE in 2003, perhaps the turning point of the war, for till then Prabhakaran had been able to use youngsters from the east as cannon fodder. I had lunch then with Nirmali at the Bridge View hotel she had discovered, which I was to use constantly in the years that followed, and then after classes at Kalawanchikudy and Kattankudy we went to Trinco where she stayed at the Welcome Hotel while I went on to the army Araliya Lodge guesthouse.

I saw the GA and the CBSM team at the kachcheri next morning and then went to Morawewa to see the Sinhalese families that had been resettled, pleased that they were all people who had been there earlier and fled when the LTTE became more vicious. I was also pleased that the Divisional Secretary introduced himself as a GELT student from 1994, and noted how encouraged they had been when I visited his class at Southlands in Galle.

After lunch with the GA I checked on NIrmali’s classes and visited the Education Office, before joining Nirmali and her daughter for drinks on the balcony of the Welcome Hotel and dinner there. And next day, having driven to Colombo, I went to Wadduwa for a reunion of my first intake at the SLMA, 51, to which Chamil belonged, delighted at the maturity of the raw cadets I had met ten years earlier. Despite a very convivial event, I managed to face two local interviews that evening.

On Saturday I got to the cottage in the afternoon, but had all of Sunday there before returning early on Monday to Colombo. I had a wedding that day of one of my students from Sabaragamuwa, at President’s House for she was marrying a Rajapaksa relation so the President and I were the two witnesses.

The following Saturday I took Dayan and Sanja, back in Sri Lanka now after his dismissal from Geneva the previous year, to the cottage for lunch, but then sent them back, returning to Colombo myself only the next afternoon. The Presidential election, which Mahinda Rajapaksa had called prematurely – only Gota and you told me not to, he said dismissively, when I asked if he had gone through the memo I sent him – was on Tuesday 26th January, and he won handsomely.

This post describes a long and intensive visit to Jaffna where many agencies were trying to kickstart reconstruction. Unfortunately the education and training efforts the private sector were keen on were not taken forward swiftly by government which could have done so much in this regard.

The pictures are of the imaginative and hard-working Fr Gnanaponraj, and then of the journey to Mullaitivu, including of Prabhakaran’s bunker and the ship Farah which the LTTE had hijacked – and some lovely scenery.

31 Reconstruction efforts

I was up in Jaffna early in 2010, taking a flight up on the 5th to Palaly where I stayed at the White House in the army camp. But I went straight from there to St. John’s where Nirmali Hettiarachchi was running a seminar on the Cambridge English courses. We had lunch there with the enterprising Principal, Fr. Gnanaponraj, and then I dropped Nirmali at her hotel and saw the GA at the Kachcheri before going on to Jaffna College at Vaddukoddai, where I also tried to find Shanthi Wilson’s house, which she had known nothing of for years. Then after coffee with NIrmali we went back to St. John’s for a Skills Seminar before I went back to Palaly, to see General Chandrasiri who was now Governor of the North.

The next day the Business of Peace Alliance had a seminar at the Public Library, where I made a presentation after lunch, and then went back to St. John’s where Nirmali was running a workshop for primary students. Then back to the Library, and a drive out to the Kankesanthurai camp barrier, before dinner with the group.

Next morning I saw Douglas Devananda at the fortified cinema he had used as an office and dwelling place during the war, and then I drove down to the Kilinochchi headquarters and went to see the resettlements at Karachi and saw soldiers rebuilding the Kilinochchi kovil. I saw too what had been the LTTE offices before dropping in at the kachcheri and army headquarters again, where I found the forces deeply committed to the rebuilding process.

I went from there to Nallur, to see resettlements there and check on schooling, had lunch with a brigade in the field, and then saw the Kiranchi internal and coast settlements, pleased with the positive attitude of the people but sad that more was not being done to promote economic activity. This was what BPA and Nirmali in their different ways were trying to do, but government in the form of Basil could not work together with them, and he failed too to use the forces who could have done so much for training and the encouragement of entrepreneurship.

I spent that night too at Palaly, and went next morning on my first visit to Mullaitivu, looking in en route at Prabhakaran’s fortified bunker at Visvamadu and the jail where he had tormented his captives, Tamil and Sinhalese. I then went on to Puttumatalan, to the site of Prabhakaran’s last stand, and saw there what I described as the vehicle graveyard, the site where hundreds of vans and cars and lorries were disintegrating, because no one would take a decision on what was to be done with them. I went back to Mankulam for lunch and then visited Manik Farm again before heading back to Colombo.

In this post I talk about my first visit to Jaffna after the war ended, to check on resettlement rehabilitation, though I was also able to visit the Fort and check out the remains of the old Government Agent’s residence where I had stayed way back in 1962. And I also mention celebrating Human Rights Day at one of the Rehabilitation centres in Vavuniya.

The pictures are of the Jaffna trip and include the bleak landscape with palmyra trees denuded of their leaves by shelling. But I begin with a picture of Karu who was I think allocated the position closest to me, perhaps as being the most dispensable in those days before he became a family man.

The last three pictures are of the destroyed GA residence, with a plate still embedded in the wall.

30. Resettlement and Rehabilitation

In late November I went to Sabaragamuwa University for the final year project vivas of the last group I had taught. Having met the new UNHCR representative the next day, and discussed the new CHAP at Basil’s office on the Tuesday, I left on the Wednesday for a CALD meeting in Manila, getting back to Colombo only on December 1st.

The following week I went to Ragama twice, to sign at the wedding of the youngest member of my commando squad and to attend his homecoming, heading off on the latter occasion to the cottage for the night and the Sunday, restful though there were many articles to write.

The next week I began visits also Jaffna to check on the resettling. I started early on Thursday the 10th, getting to Vavuniya for breakfast with Kamal Guneratne, before several meetings including a celebration of Human Rights Day at one of the Rehabilitation Centres. I went on then via some settlements to the Palaly Camp where I had dinner with General Mark who was the SF Commander there now. I met several school principals and the Bishop of Jaffna and also one of my first pupils at Sabaragamuwa who was now working for the Norwegian aid agency FORUT, and also spoke on Human Rights at the Kachcheri. But I did also have time to look at the ruined residence of the Government Agent where I had spent a night or two when I was eight years old.

I got back to Vavuniya for a night with Kamal, went next morning to the education office to try to get them to do more for English, and then went to Alu for lunch were Ena was entertaining the wife of the British High Commissioner. But I went on from there to Derrick’s for dinner and the night, getting back to Colombo after lunch on the Sunday.

On December 26th, after Christmas at home the previous day, I went early to Kurunagala for the annual Safety Day celebration, and then returned to Colombo for a party at the home of the insidious American Political Affairs Officer, Paul Carter, reaching the cottage well after midnight. And I was back in Colombo that night for two full days of work before leaving on Tuesday night to spend the new year with friends in Thailand.

Rajiva Wijesinha


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