Five years after Kebithigollewa massacre :
Sisudiriya , a boon for schoolchildren
President Rajapaksa’s visit
at the scene in Kebithigollewa
No human rights watchmen seem to remember what happened on June 15,
2006 around 7.30 in the morning in Kebithigollewa, a remote village in
the Anuradhapura district.
To Sri Lankans that was the climax of terrorist destruction. It was a
few days after the collapse of the peace talks between the Sri Lankan
Government and the LTTE.
Two directional claymore mines were triggered off targeting a
jampacked bus plying to Kebithigollewa in which infants, school
children, pregnant women going to maternity clinics were majority of the
commuters. Sixty four innocent civilians including 15 children were
killed and 87 were injured following the blast.
At least 160 commuters could have been in the bus. All the victims
were from the Sinhala villages of Yakawewa, Halmillawewa, Kanugahawewa,
Thalgahawewa and Nikawewa in the far end of the Anuradhapura district.
Many of the schoolchildren were studying for their Year 5 scholarship
examination and they were just ten year olds.
Children of the Sisudiriya program at Temple Trees
President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the site where lines and lines of
dead bodies were laid on the floor of the hospital amidst weeping
mothers, fathers and children.
The United States condemned the attack, noting: “This vicious attack
bears all the hallmarks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
It is a clear violation of the Ceasefire Agreement that the Tamil
Tigers claim to uphold.”
The incident not only steeled the determination of the Government to
completely wipe out terrorism yet but also sowed the seeds for a special
project to boost the morale of the young generation living a hard life
in similar areas.
This thought gave rise to ‘Sisudiriya’ National program enhancing
knowledge and virtues of schoolchildren from areas in the North Central,
North Western, Northern and Eastern provinces. ‘Sisudiriya is the
brainchild of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
This national program continues to shape and mould the talented young
generation for full five years under the umbrella of ‘Northern Spring’
(‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’, ‘Wadakkin Wasantham’) As of today hundreds of
schoolchildren of all ages are benefited through this project,
especially those who are from Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya,
Mannar, Mullaithivu, Kilinochchi, Jaffna, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
The program is organised and monitored by the Social Development
Affairs unit of the Presidential Secretariat. “Our intention is to
create a new generation with virtue committed to develop a peaceful
society by making them positive thinkers through passing messages of
humanity by different approaches,” Director of the Social Development
Affairs Unit Nandana Wijesinghe, said.
The Kebithigollewa massacre
“We need to raise them to be Change Agents who can make a change in
the societies they live in to create a serene environment for everyone
of the community to live in,” Wijesinghe said. What needs to be
inculcated in their minds is that though people live in culturally
separated individual pockets human interactions create the base for each
and every daily activity of every person’s life.
Three steps to reconciliation
According to Wijesinghe the Sisudiriya’ program worked in three
steps. Initially children who were directly affected by terrorism were
selected and given a leadership training and sessions to inspire them
with social harmony, reconciliation, religious co-existence etc.
This program was conducted for a total three years. The second step
was to establish this peaceful thinking. Lot of gatherings were
organised letting children from the north and south interact.
On the third phase school prefects from every educational zone were
selected to be trained as ‘Changing Agents’ under the ‘Sisudiriya’
These children will be actively engaged in community activities and
school activities in their respective localities to inculcate peace and
harmony among the people. Children from Northern, Eastern and North
Central provinces join with children from schools in the Western
Province bridging the gap the new generation suffer.
“When the Relief villages were set up in Cheddikulum in Vavuniya the
‘Sisudiriya’ program was launched for those children as well.
Special Art and crafts programs and competitions were organised for
them,” Wijesinghe added.
As he further explained, children from schools in the Vavuniya
district integrated with the school children from these relief villages
and share their experience and skills gained working as ‘change agents’.
Today this gigantic program silently prepares for their five year
celebrations. This will be the ultimate showcase of their years-long
attitude and social development training.
The bus that met with the
The event will be colourful as their future. A host of events are
lined up from July 31 to August 8, celebrating their success over the
past five years. “With the participation of 5,000 schoolchildren from
all over the country a special program on social integration will be the
key event,” said Wijesinghe.
The fifth year anniversary festival will be held on August 5 at the
Temple Trees, Colombo with the participation of 5000 leaders and
beneficiaries from the North, East, North Central and Western Provinces.
The series of events includes a symposium and a painting workshop on
‘Peace, Harmony and Diversity’. The symposium will be held at the New
Arts theatre of the University of Colombo on August 2.
Today the children have a chance to perform their artistic skills on
a grand stage to a distinguished gathering. “Their performance will
travel across the country enhancing harmony among every ethnic group.
Though still a plan we believe we will be able to take this talented
young generation to foreign countries. It will showcase the true Sri
Lankan unity to the world against all the odds that try to separate the
ethnic groups from each other,” Wijesinghe added, depicting a bright
future for these children as well as for the country.