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Sunday, 31 July 2011





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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’ concept.

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’.

Five years

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 tragedy

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.


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