From Sri Lanka: Providing Relief to People Displaced by Conflict in the East
April 4, 2007
In response to the recent escalation of the conflict in Batticaloa District in Eastern Sri Lanka, thousands of residents fled their homes, particularly from Paduvankarai, Palukamam, and Thoppikala, to the Government controlled areas near Batticaloa town. Government agencies and NGOs provided some relief to these refugees but the assistance provided did not always meet the needs of the large numbers of mostly Tamil internally displaced persons (IDPs) for food and other staples.
Thousands of IDPs arrived in Tamil villages bordering Kattankudi, a town inhabited entirely by Muslims, as well as other nearby Tamil villages. Responding to a desperate situation, the people of Kattankudi wanted to ease the suffering of their Tamil neighbors and were prepared to help in any way possible. However, Kattankudi residents were not clear on how to initiate the process and needed a group of leaders to organize their efforts.
The Chairman of the Kattankudi Urban Council, Mr. U.L.M.N. Mubeen, considered the options and realized that he could initiate action through the Kattankudi Working Group, consisting of business leaders and staff of the urban council and other local government authorities that was formed through the Local Economic Governance Project of The Asia Foundation. The project is meant to improve the business environment in various localities and is supported by the Australian Agency for International Development. Mr. Mubeen called for a special meeting of the Working Group with an appeal that they champion the relief program.
The Working Group met on March 11, 2007 to discuss how they could provide assistance to the Tamil IDPs. They decided to provide up to 21,000 meal parcels for three days (March 12-14, 2007). The Kattankudi Traders Association, Urban Council, and the All Mosques Federation contributed to and worked together to provide the meals.
On March 12, 2007, the Working Group made arrangements to provide the initial 3,000 parcels of food. Mr. S. Amalanathan, the Divisional Secretary (Government Official) of Araiyampathy, the adjoining Tamil village, witnessed the event and remarked that this initiative has paved the way for the Tamils in Araiyampathy and the Muslims in Kattankudi to set aside their differences and to build a better relationship. The two communities had recently been in conflict over issues such as land, business, and agriculture. The initiative of the Working Group to feed the IDPs was the starting point for a dialogue between the two communities.
Responding to Mr. Amalanathan, the Chairman of the Kattankudi Urban Council stated that the reason they were able to join hands in this unique effort was due to a private-public dialogue (PPD) facilitated by The Asia Foundation from January 6-7, 2007. The PPD workshop included a module on the importance of reducing conflict which was specially designed for PPDs in the Eastern Province. The Chairman further stated that this experience provided an opportunity to put some of the lessons learned at that workshop into practice and for the Tamil and Muslim communities of his area to reconcile differences and begin to build ethnic harmony.
V. S. Srikantha is the Program Manager at The Asia Foundation’s office in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia's development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
THE LATEST ACROSS ASIA
Columbia University Weatherhead East Asian Institute: “Asian Views on America’s Role in Asia:” Video and Photos
December 2, 2016
NPR: Amid Economic Crisis, Mongolians Risk Their Lives For Do-It-Yourself Mining
December 1, 2016
Research Reveals Cambodian Television Rife with Depictions of Violence Against Women
November 30, 2016
Charter Outlines 10 Actions to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children in Timor-Leste
November 30, 2016
Asia Foundation Releases Study of Private Perceptions of Corruption (STOPP) in Mongolia
November 30, 2016
Public Program: The Asia Foundation’s 2016 Survey of the Afghan People
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Asian Views on America’s Role in Asia: The Future of the Rebalance
Recommendations for the incoming U.S. president on policy toward Asia