After a visit down south to Getamanna, I went with Felix to the East, which included a visit too to the hospital in a deserted area north of Trincomalee. This had been set up to circumvent the trickery of the LTTE in sending down its own cadres in the guise of sick and injured when the ICRC, with support from our navy, brought people off from Mullivaikkal in the last days of the war.

The pictures however are from that first visit to the North, my interactions with former combatants, who responded very positively to my efforts to engage them.

24 The East as well

After my evening with Jagath and Sudantha, I went next day with one of the officers who had been a cadet at the SLMA with me, now in intelligence, to check on two centres where the former combatants were housed while being questioned. I spoke to a few who were good in their English and played ice-breaking games with the girls, who seemed to enjoy this. I mixed among them freely to the anxiety of my security contingent who had told my driver that life was very difficult for them since, if anything happened to me, their lives would not be worth living.

After lunch with my staff I went to the kachcheri to meet Mrs Charles and then had a meeting about education in the camps and protection, and then went to Anuradhapura since I wanted Felix to see something of the glories of the country. The rest of my staff went to Colombo, and I stayed there the next day, marking papers and drafting letters on the wonderful balcony at the old Tissawewa Resthouse while my driver and a couple of the security took him round the sites. And in the evening I drove with him to the Jetavanarama which looked stunning in the evening night.

The next morning I sent him to Mihintale while I finished my drafts and then drove to Yapahuwa which he climbed while I finished my marking. We had lunch at the archaeology circuit bungalow there and then went down to the cottage, it being Sunday night, having dropped in en route at the house of Sergeant Amarakoon to meet his wife and family.

Next Monday, the 29th of June,  we left the cottage early, to be told at the office that SCOPP was to close at the end of the next month. I took Felix to stay at Jeevan’s that night and next morning went to President’s House for breakfast with the Japanese Special Envoy Yakuo Akashi who had been very positive throughout about Sri Lanka. I should have realized then which way the wind was blowing for the only other person there was the President’s eldest son Namal. What I thought was simply an interesting meeting was a precursor to him becoming an important political player.

The following weekend, after Friday night at the cottage, I took Felix down to Unawatune for the night, when we were able to have drinks on the beach as the sun set. Next morning I took him to Getamanna for the annual family almsgiving which I was able to get to after three years, and then we went to the Deniyaya Resthouse for the night, with its beautiful views. The next morning it rained but the dramatic outlook was still lovely, and then we drove over the hills and via Ratnaputa to the cottage for that was a poya holiday.

After work the next day we drove to Trinco where I left Chamil and Felix at the Welcome Hotel and stayed myself at Paterson Lodge which I had so much enjoyed the previous year. I saw Janaka Walgama next morning after breakfast and then picked up Chamil to visit the GA and the Chief Minister and also the local UNHCR staff, and then drove up the coast with a ferry ride en route to Pulmuddai where government had had a hospital for those brought by the ICRC from the last LTTE enclave. The LTTE had sent more bystanders than sick, and when it became clear that some at least of these were infiltrators government decided it was best not to take them to the Trincomalee hospital, from which they could easily vanish, but to isolate them in this remote location. The Indians helped with setting up a well equipped hospital which had done yeoman service till the end of the war.

Unfortunately government did not make good use of these statistics later, to make it clear that we had done what we could for the people, and it was the LTTE that cared less for the sick than for its own cadres. The number of deaths in any war is half or less than the number of those injured, so the claims of massive numbers of dead, when far fewer than 10,000 sick were brought out by the ICRC, were clearly nonsensical.