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At the meeting last week of the Mutur Divisional Reconciliation Committee meeting, the Chairman of the Mediation Board reminded me of a suggestion made by the school principals I met during my last visit to Mutur. This was in 2008, while the conflict in the North still raged, but the East was limping back to normality.

The principals were from a Muslim school, a small Tamil school and a very small Sinhala school, all of which suffered from teacher shortages. They asked with one voice why they could not have a single English medium school.  Not only would that bring the children of a very fractured area together, it would give them all chances of a better future.

I pointed this out in a letter to the Ministry. I went further and indicated how it would help government by reducing costs, since far fewer teachers would be needed for one school than for three, each with few students. The teacher shortages endemic in a distant place like Mutur could also thus be reduced, with less headache for education officials who would have to fill up fewer cadres.

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I had not been in the East for several months, not least because the North seemed to need much more attention in terms of my work as Adviser on Reconciliation. However, with the system of Divisional Secretariat Reconciliation Committees functioning informatively, if not always effectively, I thought I should pay some attention to the East, since obviously reconciliation had to be taken forward there too, and also better coordination of aid work, in terms of my mandate in that area.

Thikanaveli Tank at Vaharai Division in Batticaloa

I had assumed that the basic government strategy of massive efforts at reconstruction had borne fruit in the East, unlike in the North where it was essential to take other steps too in view of the very different circumstances. My visit confirmed that government had indeed worked wonders in the East, for the developments in communications and irrigation and the basic wherewithal for economic activity were phenomenal.

In 2009, during my last visit as Head of the Peace Secretariat, I was overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place since an earlier visit, when travel was painfully slow and there was still uncertainty about commerce. Subsequently, visiting to inspect some work in English Trainer Training, I felt that the trajectory was steadily upward, but even so I was not prepared for the qualitative leap forward that had occurred between then and now. Read the rest of this entry »

Having heard the various presentations at the Seminar about Defeating Terrorism, I think that second only to admiration for the systematic work of our forces was regret about the deficiencies Rohan Guneratne noted, with regard to presentation of the story. I hope government will swiftly take up his suggestion that we develop better information dissemination strategies, not only in the Foreign Service and the Information Ministry but also within the services themselves .

Several years back, when I was Academic Coordinator of the degree programme at the Sri Lanka Military Academy, I drew attention to the failure of our officers to set down their experiences in writing, and indeed to analyse defeats as well as victories. I recall being told then that it might be difficult to have instituted projects on say the loss of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and Pooneryn in the nineties, and Elephant Pass in 2000, since some of the officers responsible for those setbacks were still in the army.

That seemed to me an unsatisfactory answer, given for instance how thoroughly the Indian Army had tackled the story of the IPKF, which was also a setback, even though from the Sri Lankan point of view it had provided a great service to us, which we should have permitted to be concluded. I believe the Indian army learnt from its mistakes then, and certainly study of those several books taught us much about the techniques the Tigers used, not only in terms of guerilla warfare but also the use of civilians as human shields and propaganda tools.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

November 2019
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