Resettling Eastern civilians
It is a sad fact of conflict
that apart from the combatants themselves, innocent civilians
also suffer. It is also well known that terrorist groups all
over the world use civilians as human shields, a bargaining tool
or worse, even as a soft target. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam are no different in this regard.
The influx of civilians to cleared areas following the
Security Forces' humanitarian mission in the East did make
matters easier for the Forces as they did not have to worry
about civilian casualties. On the other hand, the authorities
now face the formidable challenge of resettling more than
118,150 civilians in their original dwellings.
This is not as easy as it sounds, for several reasons. The
fleeing terrorists have booby-trapped and mined the towns and
villages. They will not be suitable for human habitation unless
and until such explosive devices are cleared.
Another significant impediment is that hardly any civilian
administration is in place in some of the newly regained areas.
Police stations, Government departments and other Government
services have to be established before the civilians move in
In this context, it is heartening to note that swift action
is being taken on both these counts.
The process has been expedited with a view to resettling the
civilians before the end of next month. It may appear to be an
ambitious target, but it is by no means impossible. The process
is to be completed in four phases commencing May 14.
The opening of access roads such as the Maha Oya-Chenkaladi
Road and the provision of security to the civilians are equally
There would be no point in resettling the civilians if they
are not freely integrated with the rest of the country through
the physical infrastructure network including roads. Other
services such as water, electricity and telecommunications too
will have to be provided.
The Police Special Task Force is addressing security concerns
by establishing camps west of Batticaloa and south of Chenkaladi.
The Army will also be geared to protect the civilians.
This will hopefully be the beginning of a 'new life' for the
civilians who had hitherto experienced only the sheer
suppression and tyranny of the Tigers. The resettlement will
complete the Government's avowed humanitarian mission to truly
liberate Eastern civilians and point the way towards such action
elsewhere in the country.
Help our inventors
A report we published yesterday on a unique invention by an
enterprising young man from Nikaweratiya would have caught the
eye of many a reader. Herath Mudiyanselage Nawaratne has
perfected a clay water filter capable of absorbing fluoride and
filtering water leaving aside all impurities and organisms.
A step-up from the ubiquitous Guruleththuwa which keeps water
cool in many Sri Lankan homes, Nawaratne's filter uses a mixture
of common natural clay and very special herbs to provide 100 per
cent pure water. No chemicals or artificial materials have been
used in the manufacturing process. Furthermore, the filter costs
next to nothing to run as it relies on the power of gravity.
This product is a fine example of "appropriate technology"
for a developing country. The raw materials are fairly common
and no mains power is required. If properly manufactured on a
larger scale and marketed islandwide, the product can save
millions of rupees in foreign exchange currently spent on
importing electric water filters.
Therein lies the crunch. Despite appeals, no Government
institution or private company has come forward to help
Nawaratne to mass produce and market his invention.
This is indeed pathetic, for Nawaratne's is a path-breaking
invention that deserves to be in every Lankan home.
We hope our report will spur them to help him.
But such inaction could be part of a wider malaise affecting
society as a whole. Lankans generally have an aversion to local
products. Even in a supermarket or grocery, most people tend to
buy more expensive foreign products apparently on the
presumption that they are 'better'. Sometimes this attitude
extends to the bureaucracy which is responsible for lending a
helping hand to local craftsmen and inventors. Such attitudes
have to be changed if we are to progress in the industrial
In this context, local inventors - and investors - must be
given due recognition for their efforts. In any other country,
Nawaratne would have already received assistance and incentives.
The first step would be helping him to patent the product so
that no foreign entity can claim it is one of their inventions.
Nawaratne and other local inventors deserve such help every step
of the way.