Tamil youth join Army in North and East reconciliation programs
Subashini delivering a vote of thanks on
behalf of her peers.
Their happiness was a showcase of peace and harmony. Language was not
a barrier to understand the excitement and thrill of joy they felt
during the Colombo tour which was the first time to many of these young
girls. The tour was for the Sri Lanka Army's newly recruited Tamil
girls. Ninety seven girls out of the total 103 recruits joined the tour
organised by the Sri Lanka Army for these girls.
All are hoping to go home after returning to their base today (13) to
celebrate the Hindu New Year - the Thaipongal celebrations. It is the
first time they are going back home since they were recruited in last
November. For almost seven days they travelled, visited places and spent
time with the other women soldiers of their battalion, the 6 Sri Lanka
Army Women's Corps (SLAWC) at their rear headquarters in Veyangoda. It
was a great way to enter in to this new world of disciplines and
uniforms which is going to be their lifestyle for a considerable number
of years until they retire.
Listening to the voice of youth – SVAB President Manjulika
Jayasuriya and members along with senior Army officers.
SVAB President Jayasuriya in conversation with
the new recruits.
Their first day in Colombo could have been very chaotic with
journalists, cameras, interviews around in a different atmosphere. Yet
it was evident the newly recruits were slowly but steadily absorbing the
discipline of the Army yet not losing their vibrant girlish nature.
Sri Lanka Army in November last year enlisted its biggest ever batch
of 103 Tamil girls from Kilinochchi to the 6 SLAWC of the Sri Lanka Army
Volunteer Force during a landmark ceremony at 6 SLAWC Headquarters at
Bharathipuram, Kilinochchi. Although the Army has a fair number of
Tamils and Muslims serving the organisation, it was the first time in
its history a mass-scale recruitment of Tamil girls of this magnitude,
took place as a gesture of goodwill and reconciliation. More than 200
girls applied for recruitment, but the Army was able to accommodate only
103 applicants after selecting the best in three rounds of interviews.
Majority of these girls were from the Northern Province yet there
were a few from other parts of the country too. One of them was Nirmala
Devi, a 23-year-old girl who was brought up and educated in Gampola. For
her this is a dream come true.
"My father was so happy. He even took photos of me in the uniform. I
am very happy that I could make him proud," Nirmala Devi said with a big
smile. As she said her family and all her relatives are very proud of
her for being the first girl from their family to join the army. "It was
my uncle who told me this news. And I was fortunate to have a
encouraging family," she said. Obviously for a Tamil girl this is a
historical moment. In a flashback after several years one would see them
as pioneers in women soldiers from the Tamil community.
Nirmala Devi has first studied in Sinhala in Devi Balika Vidyalaya in
Gampola among schoolgirls of all communities and later enrolled to Hindu
College for her further studies. "I did lot of sports at school
specially athletics. Mostly I was famous for the javelin and put event.
And I did dancing as an extracurricular activity," she said recalling
her sweet memories of her school time.
Today, learning to become professional women to serve the country,
these young girls care for each other like sisters. To them, their
platoon is like a home away from home. A fraction of the Tamil populace
showed a greater resistance in recruiting girls in to the Army. Yet,
these young girls looking for better opportunities to make their future
bright and prosperous treat the chance with such positiveness.
They and their families may have their own experiences facing the
responses of the society. What was the reaction from the society to them
and most importantly what do they think. "I think its their jealousy,"
Nirmala Devi said with a giggle. "Api ewa ganan ganne ne" (we don't mind
those comments), she said. "As long as we do our duty honestly there can
be no problems," she added. And her nineteen year old friend Nalini
Nalini has studied up to Advanced Level at Paranthan Hindu Maha
Vidyalam. My mother died when I was ten. I'm living with my father and
younger sister," Nalini said. Her dream had been a courageous job like
working in the army. "I totally enjoy the job. We do drills and many
physical training exercises and I do not find them tough," said Nalini
with little pride.
"My father opposed when I decided to join the Army. He still doesn't
like but not as he used to be at the beginning. He doesn't like not
because of the army but he thinks it will be a tough job for a girl. He
was afraid of the weapon training I will get," she said. "But the
challenge to train for this job is what I like. I'm sure he will be okay
in the future when he sees how I do my job successfully," said Nalini.
Nineteen year old Nagendran Subashini from Paranthan is very
outspoken girl with confidence. On behalf of her peers she did a speech
thanking the Commander of the Army and all who supports them at the
welcome event held to introduce these girls to the service done by the
Seva Vanitha Army Branch.
She desired a job in the Government sector - expecting a stable,
secure future for her and her family. "My family was very supportive to
my decision. But some people of the community questions why we joined
the army," Subashini said.
Many local Tamil media carried news giving misconceptions but to me
this is a very good job opportunity for girls like us, according to
The steady walk towards a
Subashini is the second of four girls and has one younger brother.
Her entire first salary, she has given to her mother. "We have lots of
financial problems and my salary gives a great relief to my family," she
Vinayagam Thanuja (23) hails from Talaimannar, Mannar. The Army
announced about the recruitment at our village and I discussed with my
family and they agreed with my decision to join the Army," Thanuja said.
Making the vote of thanks representing the Sri Lanka Army Seva
Vanitha Unit Kumudini Wanigasooriya, Public Relations officer said
"Caste, race and creed is immaterial. Unison to hold hands and walk as
one is most important. And today that wish has flourished." the women
soldiers met Sava Vanitha Army Branch President Manjulika Jayasuriya at
the 'Viru Kekulu' pre-school auditorium at Manning Town.
Recruitment to Army is routine yet this is a major step towards
reconciliation in the post conflict era. Keeping their role in
reconciliation the Sri Lanka Army has made every attempt to give
prominence to assist the communities of newly resettled areas especially
In Kilinochchi, the Security Forces Headquarters of the area has
taken steps to provide computers to Government schools and to educate
those children on Information Technology. Another 140 schoolchildren who
passed grade five scholarship last year are given scholarships worth Rs.
10,000 each. Twenty five Advanced Level students of the Kilinochchi area
were given Rs. 25,000 each funding their education jointly with the
assistance of well wishers.
In addition, four undergraduates are given a laptop computer each and
for two of them, who were from less privileged families, are given a
monetary assistance of Rs.3,000 per month that will continue until they
complete higher education.
In addition the Army assists schools in Kilinochchi to start
cadetting and scouting on request. To children living in areas with
transport difficulties bicycles are issued free.
In supporting the resettlement process the Army personnel are engaged
in rebuilding and repairing houses of selected families who actually
need help to stand up in their life.
In order to improve the prominent coconut cultivation of the area
450,000 saplings were distributed among several families by the Army.
In Mulaithivu, under the guidance of Security Forces Headquarters of
Mulaitivu more than 100 new houses were built by Army personnel for the
resettling communities. In addition they have repaired more than 600
houses as well and have made nearly 2000 temporary houses for resettling
Army has helped selected schools build libraries while providing
books as well with the help of patriotic citizens. For students of
schools in difficult areas clothes for uniforms and stationery items are
provided. In addition the Army has organised trips for these
schoolchildren to visit areas like Colombo, Kandy and Galle with food,
accommodation and transport provided free.
In assisting the community struggling to rise up, the Army is
providing fishing nets and fiberglass boats to fishing communities to
start off their livelihood activities and more than 2000 families were
given chicks to start backyard poultry as a self employment. Sewing
machines provided to women who requested assistance to start self
employment. More than 300 tube wells were set up in many part of
Mullaitivu where there is water scarcity.
As the first step in assisting the disabled people of the area
irrespective of them being ex-LTTE cadres the Army deployed in
Mullaitivu has taken steps to provide the needy with artificial limbs.
During the heavy rains that flooded the east displacing 11,982 men,
women and children belonging to 3,228 families Army took every possible
step to assist these families to be safe until their villages become
These steps have surely brightened the efforts of reconciliation of
our country. Providing more space for other communities in their
institute was a step that goes beyond assisting those people during
Speaking to the 'Sunday Observer' Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne, prominently
working in the fields of rehabilitation and reconciliation at national
level welcomes this gesture of the army in recruiting Tamil youth in to
their network. "I definitely agree that recruiting Tamil youth both
girls and boys is a significant step in the goal to achieve
reconciliation. This decision signifies trust and acceptance that they
are Sri Lankans and no different to the Sinhalese and Muslims," Dr.
Wijemanne said. As she said, these new recruits will have a distinct
advantage in areas with more Tamil speaking people as well as muliti
ethnic geographical localities. "I hope this happens with the police too
who have even more contact with communities, in relation to law
enforcement activities," she added.
What more do we need to do to establish reconciliation or have we
done enough as a country? Commenting on this Dr. Wijemanne said that in
addition an emphasis to promote the importance of transacting all
communication activities on a trilingual basis is important,
particularly in relation to official documentation involving youth and
children as well as in relation to the legal system and law enforcement
Recruiting youth to the Army is a positive sign showing that young
blood of the Tamil populace starts a new life in a peaceful world in
harmony with brothers and sisters of all communities. It is what would
energise the future of the country.
"I feel that the children and youth of today have an important role
to play in reconciliation as their attitudes and behaviour are more
pliable to change as compared with older persons . Greater use of music,
drama, and art, as well as sports has great appeal for children and
young people, and therefore of advantage in reconciliation processes.
The mass media too can be mobilized more to reach out to all youth and
children with key messages related to our Sri Lankan rather than ethnic
identity, and change those attitudes and behaviour which are barriers to
reconciliation," Dr. Wijemanne added.