I was walking down to the stream this morning to wash my face and brush my teeth, just like most of the rural population, who do not have access to pipe borne water. I sat by the ‘nana mankada’ or bathing spot, under a massive Kumbuk Tree and I could spot at least 10 species of bird all at that moment. This is a normal occurrence. There was a pond heron in front of me looking for the tasty morsel of fish in the stream. There was the beautifully dressed tiny common kingfisher darting about. The parrots were noisily going in and out of the hollow spaces(bena) in the tree above. The female paradise fly catcher was hopping about while I was looking around for the long tailed male that comes at this hour. The distinctive call of the black headed oriole in its dazzling yellow always as a couple at their favorite tree is one I always look forward to.
Fewer people now experience these sights sounds and locations. Unfortunately the children whose attitudes can be molded at an early age are now hooked on watching cartoons, some having access to computer games and such like. They don’t appreciate the great outdoors anymore as evidenced by some of my nieces and nephews who come to visit. There is not fridge, colas or ice cream.
I then thought of the kids held at the IDP camps, and against their will as human shields in the war zone. How traumatized they may be without proper access to counseling to help them cope. What is normal to them are guns and bullets and people in uniform, some who talk their language, namely the LTTE and others who talk in a strange language to them, that is the Armed Forces personnel. The Sinhala soldiers are guarding their camps, so who are they to believe are their saviours?
It is most important that these children experience freedom from being hemmed in anymore. They must be allowed to run around with only their parents to admonish them, and not guards. Lifelong attitudes are formed at an early age and therefore with that in mind, every effort should be made to integrate these people into normal life, with the object of them becoming productive citizens of Sri Lanka.
I am willing to share this property with a displaced family on a temporary basis, however the best test of mature nationhood would be if my neighbors too accept them and their children in the local schools studying in Sinhala. They will have the added advantage of speaking in Tamil at home with their parents.
I am not for a moment suggesting that the people be uprooted from their homes, however we must also accept some practical facts. They will invariably be in these camps for about three years, until the area is cleared of mines, and explosives that litter the place. Then the infrastructure such as roads, power and water has to be laid. There are international funds for this, but it will still take time. Obviously the family has a choice of how they wish to live. They can chose the camps over being temporarily settled in areas they may be apprehensive about, especially as they may have limited knowledge of who Sinhala people are and the Sinhala people worry about every Tamil being an LTTE. So just think about all alternatives and leave the choice to the civilians.