Tamil youth join Army in North and East reconciliation programs
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.
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.
the voice of youth – SVAB President Manjulika Jayasuriya and
members along with senior Army officers.
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
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.
President Jayasuriya in conversation with the new recruits.
"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
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 agreed.
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
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 Subashini.
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 said.
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,"
walk towards a new world.
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
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 communities.
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 approachable.
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 distress.
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
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.
Courtesy : Sunday Observer