A woman of our time
This profile of Sivageetha Prabhakaran was prepared by the Policy
Unit of SCOPP.
Ms. Sivageetha Prabhakaran
Sivageetha Prabhakaran, alias Padmini, is a quiet, soft spoken
person, polite yet firm, deeply confident, knowledgeable and diplomatic.
She is the first female Mayor of the Batticaloa Municipal Council. She
is 26 years of age.
She was elected with a majority of the votes at the Local Government
Elections held on 10 March 2008, representing the TMVP through the UPFA
list. She ‘only’ shares her last name in common with the LTTE Leader
Piribaharan or as many spelt it, ‘Prabhakaran.’ The contrast in their
values are however, significant. She lost her father to the LTTE and in
turn she shares the suffering of a majority of the people in the East.
Professional in her approach, it is evident, that she has wasted no
time since taking office as she has planned every detail of the
Municipal Council’s future, in consultation with her fellow elected
She firmly believes that development work in the East in particular
and in Sri Lanka as a whole cannot take place without the people’s
participation. Thus she says.
“When you say development it should not only be determined by
officials and merely on paper. It should however be fortified with the
ideas of the people. We the elected body, the officials and the people
should work together to build a brighter future”.
She speaks with confidence about the plans of the Batticaloa
Municipal Council which reflect a clear vision, focus and commitment
towards uplifting the people of Batticaloa and the land which were
destroyed by the wrath of terrorism. Ms. Prabhakaran by her conduct
illustrates the idiom “actions speak louder than words”. She places
emphasis on the smooth implementation of the development work:
“The first session of the Municipal Council was held on 17 April
2008. In keeping with the Municipal Ordinance, we formed four
Committees, in order to ease and speed up the work. Each Committee
consists of six elected members.
These committees can prise Finance, Workers’ Committee, Health and
Librarian Services.” Under her guidance a “90 Day” programme has been
planned as the Municipal Council’s inaugural task.
This is in order to address the most urgent matters in the Municipal
area. Currently the foundation required for this programme is being laid
by the four Committees referred to above, as they are in the process of
gathering data and information in consultation with the people of the
area, in order to identify the urgent sectors that must be given
Ms. Prabhakaran has spoken proudly of what can be considered a
striking feature of this initiative i.e. the Municipal Council aims to
conduct this “90 day” programme, relying solely on its own financial
resources and man power drawn exclusively from the Batticaloa District
itself. This is proof of people in the East working towards their
Furthermore, she emphasized that the “90 day programme” would be
implemented only when all the preparatory work and assessments have been
completed, in order to ensure, maximum results through implementation.
North-East Community Restoration Development (NECORD) has pledged a
sum of 5 million rupees for the purpose of developing damaged roads in
Ms. Prabhakaran explained that this sum is not sufficient to
reconstruct all the roads, nor can it be used at random. Therefore a
systematic approach has been adopted to enable the Council to identify
the roads which require re-construction as a priority.
Thus Ms. Prabhakaran presents an extremely methodical approach to the
Council’s actions, avoiding inconsistencies at the very inception. She
thus adopts a process of prioritizing all the development work that is
required in the areas for which she is accountable.
She acknowledges and understands the importance of her
responsibilities, to the people of Batticaloa. Therefore, she plans to
prevent duplication of development work and thus avoid wastage of time,
financial and human resources.
While the Municipal Council has identified key development projects
and have plans to begin work shortly, she acknowledges that everything
cannot be done by the Council/Government itself.
Thus she has already requested all UN Organizations to provide her
with details of their mandate, in order to enable her to approach the
most appropriate Organization with the relevant project proposal, thus
saving valuable time and effort for all concerned parties.
“I was given an opportunity to meet most of the heads of the UN
Organisations working in Sri Lanka. At that meeting I emphasized the
needs of Batticaloa and requested them to provide us with details of
their projects to match. It was a very useful meeting. I am thankful to
the SCOPP for providing all the necessary support and guidance in
meeting the right people and setting the right goals”, the Mayoress
She expressed her appreciation of the development projects done by
the international community including the United Nations, not only in
the East but whole of Sri Lanka.
She is also optimistic that the international community will continue
to help develop not only the Municipal area of Batticaloa, but the
entire District by using the elected local body to help identify and
prioritize future development activities hand in hand with all other aid
“Aid agencies with the assistance of the international community have
worked well in the Batticaloa District over the years. Now I hope they
work in harmony with us all in the elected body, in order to focus their
work resources to the most critical spheres”.
She is truly a person dedicated to serving her people. When one
inquires about the well being of the people of the East, Ms.
Prabhakaran’s face lights up. She sincerely believes in them,
understands that they have a critical role to play in developing their
lives and therefore speaks passionately about them:
“The then leaders did not really feel the needs of the people. The
people do not want a separate state (Eelam). They want their province
which is rich in resources to be developed very well. Because of
terrorism in the past, they could not do anything.
However now, within a united Sri Lanka, as democracy now prevails,
they want to meet their basic needs and the province developed. The
people are also very happy with the election of the local body after 14
years, as their most basic issues will now be addressed.”
She further expressed her views on the franchise used by the people
after 14 years as a warrant to work for them.
“The people in Batticaloa gave us the power to serve them. Our
victory in the local government election reveals how much trust the
people have in the TMVP. We will not disappoint them. Our doors are
always wide open and they can always share their thoughts with us”.
Women’s role in building peace
In Sri Lankan politics as a whole, only a small number of women is
involved at the Local, Provincial and Central levels. In the Batticaloa
District, it is even smaller, compared to that of the other Districts.
As an educated young woman, holding one of the key administrative
positions in Sri Lanka, Prabhakaran speaks of the important role women
should play in uplifting our country from decades of devastation.
“Today the world is moving fast, we too should act accordingly. There
are many talented women in a variety of fields, they should all come
forward and shine. In the Eastern Province, due to the past war, the
women in particular have endured much hardship.
There are many widows among them. I hope that in the near future we
can encourage these widows to come forward and rebuild their lives by
helping them to engage in self employment.”
She reflects back on her father’s life with much love, admiration and
respect. Being a woman, she says that she has no regrets about her
decision to enter the unpredictable world of politics amidst grave
threats to her life. She is driven by her love for her people and
commitment towards making her father’s dream a reality.
“Everyone is happy and appreciates that I have come forward to carry
out my father’s dream. His dream was to see the development of
Batticaloa and thus he focused on development. The public say, I must
make his dreams come true.
So I have the support and encouragement of the public and especially
that of all my family members”, she claimed.
The Eastern Province is significant for its multi-ethnic dimension,
thus making it a unique Province of Sri Lanka. It is this multi- ethnic
dimension that is the cause of glory as well as devastation.
However, the most crucial element is ensuring a peaceful co-existence
among all communities, within the East’s splendour and building a truly
‘Sri Lankan’ spirit. Ms. Prabhakaran explains with a sense of urgency
that there is a need for “a strong bond of relationship to be built
among the communities.
Whenever small problems arise within the community, the communal
organisations that play a key role in each community need to sit, talk
and sort each issue out”. She explains that the TMVP adopted this
approach in the past to resolve any issues that posed a threat to
She also recommends that immediate steps be taken by the
policy-makers in this regard. They are, teaching English as the link
language and introducing English medium syllabuses into selected
schools, teaching Tamil or Sinhala as per the requirement as an official
language, inter-communal and inter-faith dialogue.
Importance of Sri Lankan diaspora
The diaspora is expected to play a critical role in Sri Lanka. Even
from thousands of miles away, they contribute to an ongoing global
dialogue on Sri Lanka’s situation, future plans and are available to
compliment and even criticize when necessary. Ms. Prabhakaran says.
“Although they are far away, still say they are prepared to help in
our development activities”.
She warmly welcomes communication with the Diaspora and considers
them to be an extremely valuable source of encouragement and appreciates
their support. She explained that very often they refer to the need for
“the people of the North to be able to breathe the air of freedom just
as the people of the East do now”.
The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulihal (TMVP)
The one time General Secretary of the TMVP she places emphasis on the
fact that the TMVP believe in democracy and furthermore their respect
for the rights of all persons, in particular, that of all children.
It is this principle that led to their decision to come forward with
a strong commitment and dedication to serve their people and released
all the under aged cadres and now work towards securing a better future
for all people and children in the East.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, hence for a brighter
future, first we should provide them with a good education. In addition
to school education, they must be provided the opportunity to study
English and Information Technology. It is with the children in mind,
that the Council has set up a committee on ‘Librarian Services’ and
would also host reading competitions among students as part of the 90
She is also of the opinion that at present it is essential to
undertake special programmes for young adults who have missed their
childhood and education for a number of reasons.
“It is our duty to involve not only the Municipality but the entire
province as well in conducting programmes for the 3,000 young adults,
who have lost their education. They need recovery programmes to get back
to their livelihoods.
I take this opportunity to make an appeal to the Government and other
policy-makers to draw their attention on this group of people, if they
want a stable peace in the East”.