I. LIBRARY PROJECT: Pethalai Vipulanandam Maha Vidyalayam is situated in Kalkudah in the district of Batticaloa in the eastern province of Sri Lanka. This school has been in existence since 1945. During the years of the ethnic war, the school suffered a fair amount of damage as it is situated in the conflict zone. Though some repairs have already been carried out, there is still work to be done to restore the school to its original status. Currently there are 837 students and 36 teachers. The school caters to students from Grades 4 to 13. In response to a request made by the School, CandleAid donated books to open a library facility for the students. The books were selected in consultation with the school authorities. The name board (please see below) for the library and stickers for the books amounted to Rs. 3,005. The total cost of the library amounted to Rs. 72,008. Continue reading
Category Archives: voluntary workers
With the closure of the Mänik Farm Transitory Welfare Shelters in Vavuniya District, where most number of Internally Displaced people had been housed since 2009, Stamford Lake (Pvt) Ltd has launched “Operation Mänik Farm”– a story that says about what really happened in Mänik Farm. Stories of the Mänik Farm Transitory Welfare Shelters have been echoing from mid of 2009 and even today, many wonder what really happened in Manik Farm? What was it like working in Mänik Farm? What was it like being in Mänik Farm? And many more unanswered questions…… “Operation Mänik Farm” gives the answers. It is a story narrated by a Humanitarian Worker on the difficulties of providing relief to the massive displaced people, its complexity and, gives the answers to many who are curious to hear the ‘secrets’ of Mänik Farm. Continue reading
Myrna Setunga, 13 July 2009
– courtesy of the the Ministry of Health
I distributed the second lot of 150 Mother and Baby packs in Vavuniya IDP Camps on the 3rd and 4th of June. After returning from that trip I decided that it was more economical to take the packs in batches of 300. This turned out to be an even bigger task than I had anticipated. Fortunately I had identified six suppliers for all the items needed. One supplier even did home delivery. Since four of the suppliers were in the Pettah I did the orders over the phone. Thanks to Kingsley and Sura Ranasinghe who gave me their van I was able to collect all the items in one trip. My house was once again like a warehouse. Putting the items together took a much longer time and caused much greater back pain than anticipated. But Fatima, my domestic helper, and I managed to get the lot done by the 3rd of July.
Then I received a call from Dr. Rani Fernando [Director of the Castle Street Womens’ Hospital] asking me if I could add a Baby bath tub to the pack. The VOG’s had told her that the babies in the tents were in a very vulnerable environment because of the crowded conditions in the tents, They recommended the bath tub because a baby can sleep in the tub till it is at least 3 months old. Having seen the conditions in the tents I had to agree. But I did not have sufficient funds having even exceeded the amount received as donations. Fortunately Susan Joachim who happened to visit me to see the packs came to my rescue. She contacted friends all round the world and one generous donor got me the tubs through his brother who was able to get the tubs directly from the manufacturer. I was to leave on the 8th at 4 a.m. and was able to collect the tubs only on the 7th evening. We did not finish loading the truck provided free of charge, by Kumari and Mr. Wanniarachchcie, till 11 p.m. This gave me just 3 hours of rest – sleep was not possible.
I joined a group of doctors and nurses from the Castle Street Hospital and we traveled in a mini bus organized by Dr. Rani Fernando. We got to Medawachchciya by 9.30. I stayed back to wait for the truck which arrived at 10 am. It took us one and a half hours to clear security mostly because of the long queue of huge vehicle waiting to be cleared. I managed to sweet talk the two policemen into inspecting the truck without having to take the boxes out of the truck. They did even better by just peeping at the boxes through the truck door and signing the exit pass. By the time we got to Vavuniya town and off loaded the boxes at the CHA office it was 3 p.m. I sent the truck back to Colombo and enjoyed a well earned rest at the CHA guest house.
9th July .
The following day I hired a small truck and with assistance from a CHA volunteer distributed packs in the following camps.
Nelukkulam 39 packs. Puthukulam 29 packs.
Thandikulam 15 packs. Saivapragasam 45 packs.
That evening I met Dr. Safras at the guest house and arranged to distribute the rest of the packs in Weerapuram and Sumathipuram camps [which were part of the Menik farm complex]. ] These camps had been set up very recently to accommodate the families that had been moved out of the schools. The Doctor in charge is Dr. Semali.
Weerapuram 68 packs and Sumathipuram 80 packs.
I had a balance of 18 packs which I had to leave behind in the CHA office to be added to the next batch.
I went with Dr Safras to Zone 4 hospital. Many changes have been made since my last visit. Two rooms with attached toilets are being constructed for the doctor and nurses on night duty. At present there is no toilet for the medical staff in this hospital. An extension is being made for a waiting area for patients who at present have to line up outside in the sun. The millions of flies I saw last time have disappeared.
I went to the camp to look for the Assistant Director of Education that I had met the last time. But after much inquiry I found out that he had been allowed to leave the camp because he was over 60 years of age. I inspected the kitchen where lunch was ready. Red rice had been cooked and was to be served with a dry fish and tomato curry. Dinner was being prepared. Two men were cutting up the godamba roti to make kottu roti with tinned fish, cabbage and onions. The whole preparation was being done under huge mosquito nets. There were still a few flies that had been attracted by the dry fish.
I spoke to two health volunteers – sisters. They were planning street drama on health topics. I met two more sisters at the toilets. One was on crutches because she had a gun shot injury in one leg. Even with assistance from her sister I could not imagine how she was gong to use the squatting pan in a toilet that was on an elevated platform. They smiled while telling me how they had escaped from the no-fire-zone. Their father is in Anuradhapura and he can visit them. Their mother is in Jaffna. I have no idea why they cannot be reunited. People smile when I joke about their “free” tour of the N.E.Province.The water seal toilets were in an awful condition because there is insufficient water to flush them.
A new feature in this camp is the many “street” vendors. One had a fairly large shop [where he even had “fair and lovely” face cream] and others had small road side stalls. The small vendors told me that they made a profit of about Rs 300 a day. Another man had set up a cool drink stall where he was selling an iced concoction. He told me that the water was from the bore well and the block of ice is delivered daily by a truck. I informed Dr. Safras about this and he took action to have this health hazard removed. They already have a serious problem with diarrhea.
On my way back from the camp I saw three Public Health Inspectors conducting a meeting in a tent. On further investigation I found that a team of nurses from outside were conducting an awareness session with the midwives and “health volunteers”. The midwives had been given material for uniforms and shoes. The Sister conducting the class told me that the 29 health volunteers were not given any thing. She appealed for the following.
- Slippers – Bata bathroom slippers because most of them had no footwear what so ever.
- An umbrella.
- A bag in which they could carry files.
- A skirt and T-shirt. Most of them did not have a change of clothing.
There are hundreds more such volunteers, but with my policy of one drop in the bucket at a time I will try to help these girls. Did I say “bucket”?? It is more like a bottomless pit.
After lunch at the Coordinating Centre we went back to the hospital and I was able to observe two doctors in action. I observed the doctor treating the children. Almost all complained of fever and/or diarrhea. Since there is a long wait for a mobile lab the doctors were treating for suspected illnesses. Mothers were repeatedly told not to overdose with panadol. Some one had come to the camp and distributed free packs of panadol and other over the counter medicines. Some children had been given medication for fever for three days but their mothers brought them every day to be checked by the doctor. Anxiety was etched on their faces. There was not an ounce of fat on any of the people I saw there. They were all suffering from long exposure to poor diet and stressful living conditions. Many had spent weeks cowering in trenches. Some children were dressed in nylon clothes. They were either dressed in their best to see the doctor or this was all they had. In one hour the doctor saw over 100 patients. She told me that she goes “home” and cries every night. The conditions under which these doctors work and the stress they face has to be seen to be believed. There is no toilet for the medical staff and they have to wait till they go to the coordinating centre for lunch. One doctor told me that she does not drink any water while on duty to avoid the need to go to the toilet.
Most of the adult patients were elderly. All showed signs of physical weakness in addition to suffering from diarrhea or fever. By 5 p.m. there were still people in the queue. The serious patients were treated and the rest were told to come back the next day. Thus ended my last day in the Vanni.
The following day, having failed to find someone who could give me a lift back to Colombo, I took a taxi to Medavachchiya and from there took a bus to Colombo via Putlam. Sine I have not been to Putlam before this was an opportunity to check out the road. We had to get out of the bus 3 times with luggage for security checking. I got to Colombo after the six and a half hour journey completely exhausted.
Dr.Fairoos who is in Zone 0 gave me a request from A/L students for study material. The total cost is around Rs 120,000. If there is anyone out there who would like to help these students please let me know. My Tsunami experience is that what ever I have asked for I have received. I am hoping for a repeat performance. Thank you friends for helping me to do what ever I can to serve these deserving people. This is my field and I feel like a duck in its favourite mud pond. I am sorry this is a long report, and yet it is only a summery of human suffering.
Myrna Setunga, circa mid-June 2009
Dr. Rani Fernando, Director of the Castle Street Women’s Hospital, invited me to join her and a group of doctors who wanted to see the camps in Vavuniya. Included in the group were two lady doctors from the hospital, a consultant physician and Kumari who was donating bottled water worth Rs 25,000. We were also taking about 1700 panties and bras which we had received as a donation. The water and boxes of underwear were transported in a Ministry of Health truck. Continue reading
Myrna Setunga, circa. 6 June 2009
After the trouble and cost of the first trip I decided to accept an offer from CHA – Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies – a Sri Lankan NGO, to do the distribution of Mother and Baby Packs through their organisation which has access to the camps in Vavuniya. I left with a team from CHA at 3 am on the 1st of June and we got to Medawachchiya by 7.30 a.m. Getting through the security check point was very quick this time because CHA staff goes through regularly. We went straight to Menik Farm Zone 2 which is the largest of the IDP Camps with over 75,000 IDPs. CHA runs a clinic in this Zone and each week they bring in a team of Doctors, Nurses and Attendants.’ The Clinic is at present housed in a large tent and CHA is putting up a more permanent structure.
I had time to wonder around and I saw the desperate need for more toilets of a semi permanent nature. Water supply too is a problem. I saw long rows of colourful water containers lined up waiting to be filled. When the water is turned on little boys run up and down moving the containers as the ones in front get filled. [They looked so happy doing this. It was like a game for them]. Continue reading
Fitting Artificial Limbs for the IDPs and ex-Tigers, July 2009 to March 2010 — FINS at the frontline
Susiri Weerasekera … a report penned on 21 August 2011 for the benefit of FINS donors, a report that bore a different title; and reproduced here at my insistence with some minor editorial insertions and with emphasis [highlighting in colour] added as my prerogative. Web Editor.
The Colombo Friend In Need Society, the leading artificial limb suppliers in the country since 1985, is situated by the Beira Lake at 171 Sir James Peiris Mawatha. The society supplies about 70 limbs per month, having in its 26-year period of performance served 19,800 amputees all over the country between 1985 and 2011. All prostheses are low cost and of appropriate technology, a combination of a rubber foot piece aluminium shank and, often, a plastic socket. These artificial limbs are all issued free supported by donations from individuals and groups and is completely independent of single large donors from any country. We are completely independent in our decisions.
With a well-run mobile camp unit, Colombo FINS had served 40 plus outstation camps by 2009. We were the only organisation with adequate infrastrucure to run mobile camps. We promptly took up the invitation by the Ministry of Health, in their letter of June 6th 2009, soon after the war, to help the IDP amputees. As the war ceased on 19th May 2009, our compatriot doctors were ‘ informed’– wrongly as it turned out to be — that there were thousands and thousands of fresh amputees as a result of the escalated war in the last few months with large numbers of deaths (quote Dr. Panagamuwa of U.K.). Continue reading
“Whatever are our aspirations, it is based on our journey and it is the journey – the yana maga – that matters, not the destination,” says Captain Elmo Jayawardena. And it is this sentiment that holds as premise for his new coffee table book.
Capt Elmo is no newcomer to the literary world with three notable novels to his name that include ‘Sam’s Story’ which was awarded the Gratiaen Prize in 2001. For his second, The Last Kingdom of Sinhalay he received the State Literary Award and the third Rainbows in Braille’ was short listed for the Singapore Literary Prize. Launched in January of 2012, is the latest addition, ‘Yana Maga, Sri Lanka a gift for all..’, a coffee table book that aspires to be more than a mere keepsake. Most importantly, the author’s share of the proceeds from the book goes towards a charity organisation, CandleAid Lanka founded in 1996 by Capt Elmo. Among his many passions that include piloting of which spans his career, he is emphatic about his humanitarian work. The efforts towards alleviating poverty is one which he regards as his greatest contribution to life.
Rajah Kuruppu, in the Daily News, 26 December 2011
A recent event that underlines the innate good nature of man was the great walk from Dondra in the South to Jaffna in the North covering a distance of 670kms to generate funds to build the Paediatrics Cancer Ward in the Jaffna General Hospital. The walk named Trail, a journey of 27 days was undertaken from July 1 to 27. The Trail was initiated by the Colours of Courage Trust, a nonprofit organization which from its inception in 2008 has dedicated itself to provide the infrastructure for the treatment of cancer in Sri Lanka, a noble task where early detection and care could save numerous lives.
A noteworthy feature of this walk was that numerous people, rich and poor, young and old, spontaneously supported the walk which symbolized a noble gesture providing relief to children in the North who are afflicted with cancer. Some walked a part of the distance to record their support for a noble venture. There were others contributing in cash or kind to raise the necessary funds for the Pediatric Ward. Continue reading
Local civil society groups in Sri Lanka view a recently released government-appointed commission report [ http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/FINAL%2520LLRC%2520REPORT.pdf ] on the final period of the country’s decades-long civil war as a “springboard” for long-awaited reconciliation, while international human rights groups continue calling for an independent inquiry.
”This report will enable the country to move forward, addressing accountability issues and concerns on human rights,” said Dinesh Dodamgoda, director of Colombo-based NGO International Centre for Promoting Reconciliation. [ http://promoting-reconciliation.org/programs.php ]
Appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010 to look into the final stage of the conflict against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) conducted an 18-month inquiry; its findings were submitted to parliament on 16 December.
According to a UN panel report [http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf ] released in April 2011, both government forces and the LTTE flouted international law and civilian rights in their military operations during the final five months of the war when tens of thousands died. The government declared victory over the rebels in May 2009.
”Steps are needed to follow positive recommendations of the commission in a systematic and transparent manner for us to hold ourselves responsible,” Rajiva Wijesinha, a parliamentarian and presidential adviser on the peace process, told IRIN.
Sixty pages of recommendations in the LLRC report include calls for a special commissioner to investigate alleged disappearances [ http://irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=90117 ] and criminal proceedings; implementation of an amendment to the Registration of Deaths Act which allows a next of kin to apply for a death certificate if a person is missing due to “subversive” activity; an independent advisory committee to examine the detention and arrest of persons in custody to address concerns about indefinite detention [ http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=90570 ] without due process under an anti-terrorist law; criminalization of forced or involuntary disappearances; an island-wide human rights education programme targeting security forces and police; a centralized database of detainees; addressing grievances from minority communities, including Muslims in the north [ http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=88503 ] and Tamils; and improved governance.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the recommendations have “serious shortcomings” and fail to “advance accountability for victims of Sri Lanka’s civil armed conflict” in a statement released on 17 December. [ http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/16/sri-lanka-report-fails-advance-accountability ]
Hoping for change: While HRW along with other agencies and diplomats have questioned the impartiality and credibility [ http://irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93719 ] of the commission – demanding an international inquiry thus far rejected by the government – Jeeva Ahilan, a recent returnee, who fled fighting in Kilinochchi District, still hopes the recommendations will lead to change. ”People came out and spoke openly [in fact-finding hearings] about their suffering and need for a dignified life,” he said.
LLRC’s fact-finding sessions in the north over the past year were well received among recent returnees who had fled fighting, he added. “People are hopeful that their voices were heard and [that the report will be used] for development,” said Ahilan.
But recommendations are only the first steps towards reconciliation, said another community activist from Jaffna District, also in the north. ”More work needs to be done at the grassroots level to unite [people from] the Sinhalese and Tamil communities,” said Victor Karunairajan, who returned home from overseas after the war. Economic development in minority Tamil communities is a “must”, he concluded.
Limited mandate: According to Jehan Perera, director of Colombo-based NGO National Peace Council, [ http://www.peace-srilanka.org/ ] the recommendations are not likely to meet human rights organizations’ expectations. ”[They] will not be able to address the issue of war crimes in the manner expected by human rights organizations on account of [the LLRC's] limited mandate. The commission was set up to learn why a 2002 truce failed, and recommend ways to prevent the resurgence of ethnic conflict.”
Perera called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission based on the South African model, with a mandate to address the entire period of the war, waged for decades, rather than only the last phase.
The LLRC could only hear evidence, but not investigate, Jayasuriya Welimuna, head of the national chapter in Sri Lanka of corruption watchdog NGO Transparency International, [ http://www.tisrilanka.org/ ] told IRIN.
The LLRC report’s authors recognized past commissions’ recommendations for investigations have gone unimplemented, and “give rise to understandable criticism and skepticism regarding government-appointed commissions from which the LLRC has not been spared.”
Bharathi Iniyavan, 45, who spoke to IRIN from Kilinochchi, said LLRC’s work was in vain if the recommendations were not enacted. ”There are commissions here and there but what we need is action on the ground to change lives,” he added. “We need action not research.”
Q and A Interview with Rohan Abewardena, in The Island, 25 & 26 September 2011 under title “Batti political family scion beckons Tamils”
I come from a famous political family in Batticaloa. My father was Sam Tambimuttu, a member of parliament. He was assassinated by the LTTE along with my mother in 1990. They were gunned down in front of the Canadian High Commission at Gregory’s Road. My mother passed away ten days after the shooting. At the time I was about 14 years of age. After the assassination of my parents I went to UKand did my secondary and higher education there. I obtained a degree in economics from theUniversity ofDurham. Then I got involved in investment fund management and I lived away for 20 years. I returned toSri Lanka three times after the assassination of my parents – all three times to renew my passport. I still hold a Sri Lankan passport. I never took a foreign citizenship. I never thought the day would arrive when I would come back to Sri Lanka and specifically to Batticaloa where we are hailing from. When I came back it struck me, it struck me a lot because I travelled the length and breadth of Eastern Province and Sri Lanka as a whole. I always knew our country is very beautiful and resourceful, but if you look at the past 60 years, since independence I feel we failed. We failed in many areas, but primarily our resources and what we have been given in this blessed island,
Sam Thambimuttu but we have not achieved our full potential. So I had to ask questions, especially about Batticaloa, because I feel Batticaloa is immensely resource rich, but nothing has moved. People have not exploited the natural resources of the region. People are still quite poor with lot of unemployment. So I began to ask questions because my family members were part of the political process there. My mother’s father, Senator Manickckam was one of the founding leaders of the Federal Party along with H.A.V. Chelvanayakam. My father of course was a representative of TULF and my mother was an activist from the late 60s. My great granduncle was also a State Council member. He was more a Ceylonese nationalist and not a Tamil nationalist … [For a note on the assassiantion of Sam Thambimuttu in Ben Bavinck's diary see the end of this item in thuppahi].