The Same Page

Life changed in ’83 when my Tamil friends left to Canada, Australia, to the USA.  I still have my Sinhalese friends, but life isn’t whole when a part of me is missing. The anti-Tamil pogrom that Black July was a shameful episode I’m sure all of us would like to forget.  We lost the beautiful integration of cultures for hatred, suspicion and isolation.  Our children are conscious if their friends are Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim.  I suppose they think of these things now, when a few children in school have begun casting remarks denigrating the other’s religion.  What is this …

DeterMined

Puthukudiyiruppu, June 2013. Photograph by Seshanka Samarajiwa When the war finally concluded in 2009 it was estimated that as many as one million landmines and items of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) remained as a deadly legacy of the conflict. Based on surveys conducted after the war a total of 2.065 km2 of land was designated as Confirmed Hazardous Areas. This feature explores the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) in the day to day operations of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an international mine action agency deployed in Sri Lanka. The location is Puthukudiyiruppu township in Mullaitivu District of Northern Sri …

Early Warning: ICTs and Disaster Management

Negombo. July 2013. Photograph by Muradh Mohideen The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a turning point in Sri Lanka. Devastating nearly two-thirds of the country’s coastal region, it claimed over 35,000 lives, and displaced another 500,000. The South, North, East and West were all affecting, in varying degrees. The tsunami also led to a critical turning point in the relationship between the government and the LTTE, with the political acrimony that surrounded the proposed relief sharing mechanism, the P-TOMS. Since then, Sri Lanka has taken disaster management a lot more seriously, with the government, supported by international agencies, putting in …

ICTs and Youth Aspirations

Udabaddawa, August 2013. Photograph by Anushka Wijesinha From factory bench to computer chair, the job aspirations of Sri Lanka’s youth are changing rapidly. In the 1980s, following the liberalisation of the economy and limited industrialisation that came with it (particularly in the hundreds of ready-made garment factories), the country’s youth saw manufacturing sector work as the path to prosperity. Thirty years on, gaining upward social mobility necessarily means, in the minds of many young people, getting a service sector job – an officer in a government department, a sales assistant in a retail outlet, and of course, a computer whiz …

Bringing Government Closer to the People

Thimbirigasyaya Divisional Secretariat, Colombo, July 2013. Photograph by Anushka Wijesinha The idea of ‘bringing government closer to the people’ can have many connotations. In contemporary Sri Lanka what jumps to mind first is the debate on decentralisation and the 13th Amendment. Thirty years ago, inter alia, the government was woefully inadequate in providing people with basic services at a critical time of need. Ten years ago, obtaining any kind of service from a Government department meant long queues and longer waits – all this adding to dissatisfaction and disengagement by the public with government related matters and services. This feature, …

30 years on

Khan clock-tower with the site of the Sony building next to it. The Sony building was one of the main buildings to be set on fire in 1983 New building on the site of the Sony building. Old buildings stand side by side newly rebuilt ones on Main Street. Gasworks Street and destroyed ruins. Makeshift shops have taken over and remained ever since. Gasworks Street and destroyed ruins. Makeshift shops have taken over and remained ever since. Bankshall Street in 2013 Bankshall Street in 2013 The gathering at Kanatte just prior to riots breaking out – The Ravaya Collection Rioters …

Sanctuary

Audio Photo descriptions “Black July” was a time of great horror in Sri Lankan history. The pogrom of 1983 devastated families, homes and communities, and its after effects haunt us to this day. But in the midst of that horror, there were moments of humanity, bravery and compassion. This is the story of that week, as told by those who bore witness to it. “The 24th evening, we knew there was a lot going on up North and we also heard that there was some killing of 13 soldiers and that evening they were going to bring the bodies and …

ICTs in post-war Sri Lanka

Puthukuduyiruppu, June 2013. Photograph by Aamina Nizar ICT in post war Sri Lanka explores the use of information and communication technologies by people living in the North and East. Over the last few years infrastructure and connectivity in the North and East have rapidly developed. While there is still no electricity in some parts of the North and East, billboards of all network service providers dot the landscape, internet cafes and mobile/computer repair shops are common in towns in both Provinces. This feature highlights unique use of ICTs in these areas by ordinary people rebuilding their lives after the 30 …

The Absence of Technology?

Meemure, June 2013. Photograph by Aamina Nizar Many of us take connectivity for granted – we have our mobile phone at hand at all times, we stress when there is no 3G coverage, when the internet is slow, or when bad weather affects the TV show we are watching. Meanwhile, there are people in parts of Sri Lanka for whom connectivity is a luxury not a basic need, an occasional choice rather than an integral part of their daily lives. This is sometimes because of a lack of interest or relevance to them and their work, a lack of availability …

Helplines in Sri Lanka

Equal Ground, Colombo, July 2013. Photograph by Aamina Nizar Decades of war, natural disasters, poverty, unemployment, inequality, changes in values and lifestyles, combined with misinterpretations of mental health and its causes and effects have left large segments of society stigmatised and isolated. It is a fact that a strong support system, including emotional support, is intrinsic to the recovery or rehabilitation of an individual suffering from any form of mental disease – temporary or permanent. Mental diseases are treatable and life goes on in spite of it. Identities are often mistaken as mental diseases. Sri Lanka’s helplines are providing a …