Batticaloa, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict

Liberation and Relief

Photo by PeterV

I haven’t heard Crowded House play on the radio here before, but the other day, while driving, the sounds and words of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” filled my car. It’s one of those songs that always takes me in to another headspace – to where you get lost in your own thoughts – imagining, searching.

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup

The song made me think about Sri Lanka and its never-ending story of violence. I had been on trip with some friends, and had just returned from the East, where the security forces had ‘liberated’ Vaharai (or Vakarai), a town that used to be inside the territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers. Now, the Government, or the Military, claimed the people have been freed from the clutches of the Tamil Tigers.

There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost

The so-called liberated people end up in IDP camps that are located all over the district. Liberating a people by forcing them to leave their homes is a strange concept – but I guess the people can always return.

But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

A couple of weeks before, I was up in Mutur, another town that was recently ‘liberated’ by the Government’s security forces from the Tamil Tigers. I needed to see a town that had been destroyed by the fighting, but after a long and back-breaking journey on an extremely bad road, a town emerged that looked quite normal. It seemed like 99% of the town was intact – but there were one or two small areas where some houses had been damaged by shells and bullets.

Now I’m towing my car, there’s a hole in the roof
My possessions are causing me suspicion but there’s no proof

During the fighting, most of the population left Mutur, to live in temporary shelters in safer areas. After the fighting stopped, they returned . A majority of the town’s population is Muslim, and they seemed to be happy to be rid of the Tigers and be back in their homes – but they complained that their possessions – TV sets, electrical appliances, furniture, clothes and other goods – had gone missing.

In the paper today tales of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the TV page

In Batticoloa, at one of the camps we visited, the people said they will return to Vakarai as soon as the fighting was over. They had left with very little – some only had the clothes they were wearing.

Now I’m walking again to the beat of a drum
And I’m counting the steps to the door of your heart

We met a man who had just arrived at the camp. He was part of a larger group that had left Vaharai the night before. He said that in his village he could earn a good living, but it was very difficult to stay there because shells falling. After he and others escaped the fighting area, they were intercepted by the army, who treated them well and advised them that after a month they’ll be re-settled back in their village.

Only shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief