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DateLine Sunday, 25 May 2008





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Government Gazette

Sivageetha Prabhakaran:

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 members.

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”.

Development work

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 priority.

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 development priorities.

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 Batticaloa.

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 said.

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 agencies.

“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.

Communal harmony

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 communal harmony.

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 Day programme”.

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”.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Mount View Residencies
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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