Fr George Sigamoney is the Director of Caritas Sri Lanka, and recently spoke with presenter Sen Lam from Radio National about progress in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war almost four years ago.
Full interview and transcript on ABC Radio National (22/02/2013)
Fr George told Sen Lam that although most people have left the camps, there are issues preventing some people from returning to their homeland. Fr George said “Some of the lands were not cleared because the land mine issues are there, and the army is also occupying certain lands of the civilian people – I think we’re also negotiating with the relevant authorities, that the land should be given back to the people. So, it’s in the process.”
“I will say that from the very beginning, that we got the cooperation from the military as well as from the government authorities. Because we very cordially work with them, and because of that, we were able to even during the peak of the war time, that we were able to be with the people in the war zone area. And later, when the people came to the camps, we were inside the camps and helping the people. And when the people moved from the camps to their original places, we're just with the people at the moment. So Caritas is really getting the support of the government to work and to rebuild the lives of people.
He also described the continued involvement of Caritas in Sri Lanka in helping people both during the war and now in the post war period. “We have put up almost about 1,500 permanent houses for the people and we have provided almost about eight thousand livelihoods for the people…”.
Development in Sri Lanka
Fr George also said that although there was a lot of new development taking place in Sri Lanka, it is important that the development spreads beyond Colombo city, to the ‘interior places’, suburbs and rural areas.
Finally, when asked about the need for national reconciliation, Fr George discussed the importance of inter-religious dialogue.
“Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and a multi-cultural and religious country. And some religious leaders, especially those who're positive and very progressive in the harmony in the country are working towards this. So it's going on. Even as Caritas Sri Lanka, one of our initiatives is inter-religious dialogue. And through this inter-religious dialogue, how we can also bring a north-south dialogue and how we can heal one another."
He also acknowledged that it is a challenging process, saying “Because it’s not that easy, for those who underwent for the past thirty years of so much hardship and losses in the lives, to turn over immediately and say, “Ok, we are peaceful people.” So it’s a process. So the inter-religious initiatives are just going on and it’s happening at the moment, I would say.”