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Assistance to Flood Affected Communities as a Measure of Confidence Building Mechanism Among Peoples: Joint Statement by Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and the Global Tamil Forum

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) in partnership with Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement conducted medical camps over ten days, in the floods affected rural villages of Kalutara and Matara Districts, concluding on the 11th of July 2017.

Having witnessed from overseas, the devastation caused by the recent floods in the South of Sri Lanka, and the agony and personal loss suffered by the people, Sri Lankans living overseas who are members of the GTF felt that they must come to the assistance of their brethren in Sri Lanka, in their time of need. Although Sri Lanka has exceptional health services throughout the country, the Sri Lankans overseas who are settled in various parts of the world came together to contribute their medical expertise to the people in Sri Lanka, thereby building bridges between the Tamil and Sinhala communities, and uniting the communities through health and healing, a human need that transcends ethnicity, language, race and religion. This initiative is also particularly to demonstrate the Tamil diaspora’s willingness to bring their capacity and capability to help build trust between communities.

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The goals of this initiative were to improve mutual relationships, humanise the other and signal positive intentions and also commitment to avoid conflict escalation. Aim is also to help build working trust by addressing easier but important day to day issues, which in turn would allow parties to address root causes of conflicts through dialogue and negotiations.

This is an important, critical first step in a fresh "bottom-up", inclusive, people-to-people reconciliation initiative carried out by the GTF in partnership with the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. It was facilitated by the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.  The very fact that the beneficiaries responded positively saying that, “Tamil diaspora doctors and dentists came to our village and did a great service’’in a Sinhala Buddhist village in deep South is testimony to this.

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This initiative is seen as the first step to many more such partnerships to come, as the Chinese proverb goes “Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

During their stay in Sri Lanka, the doctors attended to approximately seven hundred and eighty patients. They were welcomed warmly by the people in all locations and the overseas medical professionals have offered to return, to provide medical care and attention during any time of future need.

As this was a rapid response to an emergency situation, the programme was put together in a very short time with quick planning. There were seventeen medical professionals from various disciplines and from eight countries - Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom and the United States - who volunteered. They were joined by local professionals in Sri Lanka.

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As joint organisers Sarvodaya and GTF would like to very sincerely thank the volunteers, the support staff from both organisations, the Regional Directors of Health of Kalutara and Matara, both Honourable Ministers and staff at Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health, and the Diplomatic Missions in Colombo of the adopted countries of the overseas Sri Lankans. We are particularly grateful to the financial support rendered by the governments of Norway and Switzerland.

Finally, we were encouraged by the concluding meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Ravi Karunanayake, with the participation of Minister of Health Hon. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Finance and Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Resettlement Hon. Swaminathan, Opposition Leader Hon. R. Sampanthan, Member of Parliament Hon. M.A. Sumanthiran, Senior Members of Staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Representatives of the Missions of Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and US.