North is North and South is South but the Twain Can Meet: Another Commendable Initiative by Enhancing Knowledge and Virtues: Students’ Courage
Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim students from the North, East and North Central provinces recently visited Colombo and participated in a series of programmes aimed at productivity building and attitudinal change organized by the Office of the Director, Social Development Affairs to the President under its flagship programme Nena Guna Weduma: Sisu Diriya (Enhancing Knowledge and Virtues: Students’ Courage).
The programme was initiated in 2006 to provide psychological and material relief to students who were affected by the Kebithigollewa claymore mine attack and was later integrated to the massive state-run efforts at reconciliation following the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. Nena Guna Weduma: Sisu Diriya aims to bring forth a fundamental attitudinal change in the mind sets of students of former combat zones who were directly victimized by the atrocities of the three decade long armed conflict.
Commemorating the third anniversary of the second term of office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Presidential Secretariat in collaboration with the Office of the Director for Social Development Affairs to the President conducted a special programme for Sisu Diriya beneficiaries from Kilinochchi, Mullativu, Vavuniya, Mannar and Kebithigollawa educational zones in Colombo which boasted the enthusiastic participation of hundreds of student beneficiaries belonging to different ethnic and religious groups all as one family.
Isuru Sachith, a student of A/ Padavi Buddhangala Maha Vidyalaya, expressing his excitement over being part of the programme said that the programme was instrumental in turning a new leaf in their lives. According to him this programme was laudable for its genuine effort in bringing together Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim neighbours after decades of inter-ethnic conflict and misunderstandings. Personally for him the cultural exchanges have being truly enriching thus exposing him to cultures previously portrayed as rival. The exposure has opened the eyes of him as well as many of his friends to the reality of the common cultural traits between Sinhala and Tamil cultures as opposed to the previous mythical depiction of Tamil culture being starkly different.
It was interesting to observe how easily students made friends and got on well with students outside their ethnicities within a short period of time. Once conditioned to view each other as enemies, they now found it hard to say good bye. Some, who knew nothing of the other person’s language, were able to understand it towards the end of their seven day stay in Colombo during which they were mixed with students from other ethnicities and made to share a room as a means of encouraging inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding.
Student participants visited Homagama Mahinda Rajapaksa Vidyalaya, Samudra Devi Girls’ College Nugegoda and Royal College Colombo where they participated in a wide array of activities that bonded students from North and South. The students also visited Bandaranaike International Airport, President’s Office, Temple Trees and the Foreign Employment Bureau where lectures and workshops were conducted to educate them. Tours to Leisure World and Water’s Edge provided recreational relief.
Sulenika Prasadini from Mullativu was ever so grateful to the organizers for giving them the rare opportunity of visiting Temple Trees and other important places, a prospect that would have remained a dream otherwise.
The events were graced by the presence of Hon. Minister Bandula Gunawardena, Governor of Northern Province Major General G. A. Chandrasiri, Deputy Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife S.M. Chandrasena, Director, Social Development Affairs to the President Mr. Nandana Wijesinghe and Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo Prof. Shanika Hirimburegama.
Veteran Media Personality and Director of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Mr. Mohan Samaranayake delivered the keynote speech. The valedictory ceremony was held grandly at the Nelum Pokuna theatre with the participation of student beneficiaries and veteran artists titled “Sahajeevanaye Rangana 2012 (Acts of Harmony)”.
After seven days of love, laughter, caring and friendship the programme came to an end on the 19th of November with students bidding farewell with tearful eyes. But the friendships they made shall be cherished forever. It is these friendships that the programme seeks to foster for these will be the ones that will actually stand up against enmity and mistrust that extremist forces try to impose.
- Asian Tribune -