" Recommendations of the LLRC
need to be taken more seriously "
[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 26.01.2013 ]

The Catholic Bishops' Conference led by its President, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, made a visit to Mannar, Killinochchi and Mullaithivu districts on 08th to 11th January 2013, to appraise for themselves the present situation of the resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by the war. It was a four day visit organized by Caritas Sri Lanka with the collaboration of the Diocesan Caritas Centres of Vanni and Mannar.

The visit included areas such as Mullikulam, Killinochchi, Thirunagar, Mullaithivu, Puthukudiruppu and Kerpapulavu.

In each of these places the Bishops were able to meet with affected families and interact with them to assess the ground situation. The Internally Displaced People (IDPs) shared their anxieties, sorrows as well as hopes and aspirations regarding their return to normal life. Many families who have lost their dead or missing loved ones, either parents or children, are still grieving inconsolably. They expressed the hope that they be told if their loved ones are still alive or dead. If they are dead, they wish to mourn for them and get on with their lives. If they are alive they are anxious to know their whereabouts and make contact with them.

In some areas the affected people are being resettled on lands (40 perches per family) and assistance is being provided to build their houses and also basic amenities such as wells and sanitation facilities. As regards livelihood, the people are still being issued with dry rations and some of them go in search of daily labour or work as fishermen. Many of them are farmers and therefore, they wish to have lands allocated to them, preferably in their original habitats, so that they may begin cultivating these lands and earning their livelihood which would help
them to live with dignity.

Educational facilities are minimal as children are still provided with makeshift huts and sheds. The whole atmosphere of devastated buildings and bullet-ridden walls certainly do not provide a conducive atmosphere for children, in particular, to put behind the trauma of the terrible war and get on with their studies.
Some areas are still snake-infested and pose a real threat to the IDP's lives as many areas do not yet have electricity. Despite so many handicaps and shortcomings there seems to be hope for the future as normalcy is being restored even though at a very slow pace. Mega scale infrastructure restoration is being done and is commendable yet, we feel that the day to day needs of the people too need to receive equal or priority attention.

Listening to the heart-felt sentiments of the people, re­garding their life situation in the post -war scenario, the Bishops perceived that their main aspiration is to have a participatory role in all aspects of their lives as well as their day today decision making as all other citizens of Sri Lanka. There seems to be a serious lack of opportu­nities for the affected people to participate in the pro­cesses of their own governance as prevailing in other parts of the country. This vacuum has to be filled at the earliest to prevent frustration from growing into worse proportions. Whether in the field of education, or in the matter of livelihood or securing job opportunities and in all other aspects of civil administration normal struc­tures have to be put in place for people to participate responsibly in the democratic processes. The Bishops felt this sense of disappointment among the ordinary people as well as in their discussions with civil society representatives, religious leaders and other stake hold­ers involved in the resettlement and rehabilitation pro­cess of the IDPs.

The Bishops also met with armed forces per­sonnel to obtain their views about the processes of re­settlement and rehabilitation. It was heart-warming to see how in some areas the troops were seen working closely with the civilians in the construction of houses, digging of wells etc. This collaboration is to be appre­ciated very much. However, the Bishops felt that the frequent presence of the troops among the war affected people does not create an atmosphere conducive to the restoration of normalcy as there is still a sense of sub - conscious fear of the uniform. We therefore strongly encourage the early establishment and strengthening of all forms of local government in the said areas including the Northern Provincial Council.
In the area of healing of minds and hearts there is much that has yet to be done. Trained counsellors could be of help specially for children and vulnerable sectors such as widows as the scars of war have to disappear from them, if reconciliation is to be effective. Grief always needs to be got over with. Hence while urging the gov­ernment to restore their places of worship, we also ap­peal to them to accord this opportunity to seek spiritual solace in their sufferings through religious services as essential for true reconciliation and healing. It is our contention that the power of healing which would remove the victor-vanquished feeling still preva­lent between people in this country in the case specially of the Sinhalese and the Tamils has not reached its de­sired level of success and more needs to be done. The recommendations of the LLRC with regard to reconcili­ation need to be taken more seriously, which could also lead to the strengthening of democratic processes in the North and the East and eventually to an acceptable and honourable political solution ensuring true unity in diversity. We wish to commend all these needs to the urgent attention of all the stake holders of governance of the country.

May God bless our beloved motherland, Sri Lanka, with true Peace, unity of hearts and healing!

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sri Lanka

His Lordship Bishop Norbert Andradi OMI
Secretary General,
Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sri Lanka

His Lordship Bishop Harold Anthony Perera
Catholic National Commission for Justice and Human Development
Catholic Bishops’ Conference Sri Lanka