“Whatever we lost we will regain” – The North revives after conflict in Sri Lanka


Kamsika with her 8 month old son Vijay Kumar, leaves after attending an IDP Resettlement meeting. Jeyapuram. Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Kamsika with her 8 month old son Vijay Kumar, leaves after attending an IDP Resettlement meeting. Jeyapuram. Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

They came carrying babies in arms, toddlers in bicycle baskets, the disabled in wheel chairs, the old and the young, to gather under a tree to plan and build back their village and the community.

The meeting for the resettlement of IDPs commences with motivational songs sung by all. Jeyapuram, North Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The meeting for the resettlement of IDPs commences with motivational songs sung by all. Jeyapuram, North Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The meeting at Jeyapuram South in the North of Sri Lanka is held under the Cash for Work Program (CfW) a component of the World Bank’s Emergency Northern Recovery Project  (ENREP). The meeting of resettled villagers commences with songs of inspiration, with everyone joining in. The voices are strong, they sing in unison, and hands are raised, the spirits revived.

Cleaning the school playground Theniyankulam. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Cleaning the school playground Theniyankulam. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

On the road to the resettled villages we could see a flattened and scarred land with only the outside toilets that still stand as sentry posts in a devastated landscape.

Replanted paddy fields Killinochci. 26 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Replanted paddy fields Killinochci. 26 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

However, heralding the promise of things to come it was cheering to see the bright patches of fresh green replanted paddy. “Revival of agriculture is vital for communities like ours which were primarily agriculture based farming communities,” says Sinnappah Sellayah, in Jeyapuram South.

Sinnappah Sellayah at Jayapuram. Sri Lanka. 25 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Sinnappah Sellayah at Jayapuram. Sri Lanka. 25 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Sellayah belongs to a group of seven in a welfare committee in Jeyapuram. He says there are 31 such groups and the primary need is water for cultivation. After 30 years of not being in use he says the Devankattu water tank needs to be rehabilitated.

Ladies at Jeyapuram with faces that bear the scars of their suffering attend the IDP resttlement meeting. Jeyapuram, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Ladies at Jeyapuram with faces that bear the scars of their suffering attend the IDP resttlement meeting. Jeyapuram, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Many women have sustained debilitating injuries and have heartbreaking stories of multiple displacements,  loss of husbands and children. But they are out in force,  actively participating in the CfW  program. Thirubakaran Selvi is the Secretary of the Jeyapuram South village rehabilitation committee. “There are 45 single women households in Jeyapuram says Navi Sellamah, a thin wiry 67 year old who was looking after Kandiah Thevendram in a wheelchair. Asked if she was a relation of Thevendram,  Sellamah pauses her betel chewing gives a wry grin and says “We got displaced together, survived together, so now everyone is a relation.”

Break time the mid-day meal of Chickpeas and strong tea. Jeyapuram South. 25 March 2010.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Break time the mid-day meal of Chickpeas and strong tea. Jeyapuram South. 25 March 2010.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The mid-day meal is cooked by the not so strong. At their invitation we joined the workers when they put down their tools for a  meal cooked in an open hearth under the shade of a canopy of trees in Amaithipuram. The meal of chick peas served on freshly picked green leaves for plates washed down with warm sweet tea was delicious. It was not only touching that the little they had they shared with us so warmly. Serving us as very gracious hosts were  35 year old Anna Mary a mother of five,  who lost her husband in the conflict and Sinnappa Anthony Amma another widower.

Both had very sad tales to tell and at first when I wanted to photograph them said “how can we smile when we have lost so much.” But after a chat, they did find smiles for the camera and with it a request to us to return.

Anna Mary and Sinnappa Anthony Amma. 25 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Anna Mary and Sinnappa Anthony Amma. 25 March 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The strong sense of unity and community spirit prevails everywhere. The old and the disabled like Thevendram participate in the CfW program looking after babies while mothers work in the field. ”Whatever we lost we will regain,” says Sellayah emphatically in Jeyapuram.

Kuvaneshi steals a kiss from Vijay Kumar. Jeyapuram, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Kuvaneshi steals a kiss from Vijay Kumar. Jeyapuram, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

In a corner of the gathering at Jeyapuram a 2 year old girl turns around and steals a kiss from her baby boy friend Vijay Kumar. These babies will not remember the conflict, or suffer as their parents did. The future is theirs. Can we ensure that the future is bright for them?

28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi at resettllement village, Jayapuram, North Sri Lanka. 25 Mar. 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi at resettllement village, Jayapuram, North Sri Lanka. 25 Mar. 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

© Important: Copyright Notice

This is a publicly disclosed document available for public access but  all images and text in this site is copyright protected. No material from this blog may be used except as a direct reference to this site or unless written permission is granted by the author. Write to chuls201@gmail.com

Advertisements

5 thoughts on ““Whatever we lost we will regain” – The North revives after conflict in Sri Lanka

  1. Very interesting indeed. First hand information on how the displaced people in war ravaged areas rebuild their lives is something that I like to read (and see through pictures at least) until I get a chance to see for myself.

    Well done, Chulie!

    Lakshman

  2. Thank you Chulie, for bringing us some positive notes and photos.
    Yes they will prevail and hope the rest of the country will see, accept and learn from them.

  3. Well done, indeed! Chulie, this theme is a must for CSA/CC. How can we make that happen? Can we pool together and bring a few of these people to Colombo and let them talk to us? I am a great believer in one-on-one. How many of us can be get to go over there for a day-night trip – not as tourists but as fellow citizens? WHY NOT TRY????

  4. Such brave people who have been through so much, lost so much, and manage a smile. May they get the support they so desperately need. Thank you for bringing it to the attention of your readers. Your reports/pictures need to be distributed widely.

  5. Chuli, your timely attempt is a god send to the
    country. After the guns have been silenced the next step is to rebuild what has been destroyed
    in the previous chapter. Buildings, agriculture, fishing and even some sort of civil order will come back to place with resourses , effort and time . But sadly , the two main communities of our country are still suffering from HATRED towareds each other . This emotion that was needed during war has now got to be changed to LOVE in the minds of our people who are heavily polarized, otherwise the silensed guns may recommense fireing again one day , I hope not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s