Wednesday, November 29, 2006

US Ambassador Black visits Ampara District

American Ambassador Robert O. Black Jr. recently undertook a two day tour of Ampara District to assess the progress of projects implemented by USAID in this region. Ambassador Black was accompanied by the Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs Terry J. White, USAID’s Regional Programme Manager for Ampara Bill Barkle, along with embassy officials.Their first visit Thursday was to Pottuvil, where they inspected the reconstruction of the Arugambay Bridge that was destroyed by the tsunami. On Friday, the Ambassador declared the Children’s Recreation site at Akkaraipattu Ayesha Bhalika Mahavidyalaya open. Afterwards they traveled to the village of Oluvil where the villagers are engaged in various livelihood projects. Ambassador Black spoke with villagers and assessed their project progress. Following this, there was a gathering of INGOs, NGOs, and Government Officials at Sainthamaruthu Sea Breeze that generated much discussion.

Finally, the Ambassador met with journalists representing all three communities in the District. This meeting took place at the Ampara USAID Office where there was a briefing on the activities of USAID in Sri Lanka, and in Ampara District in particular. Ambassador Black revealed that $30 million US has been set apart by the United States in order to go ahead with development projects in various parts of Ampara District. In response to a question raised by a local journalist, Ambassador Black said that he would try to pressure the government to appoint an independent commission to inquire into the assassinations of politicians that are taking place in Sri Lanka.

US Embassy Officials, including Programme Officers T. Muralitharan and S. Gayani, and Officials from Internews Network were also present at the press briefing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

FCE Religious Sites Project

Foundation for Co-Existence (FCE) has undertaken a project to rebuild eleven Religious Institutions in Ampara District that were destroyed by the tsunami. This is part of an FCE project funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reconstruct one hundred religious sites on the east coast of Sri Lanka.

Currently under construction for Ampara District project are four Hindu Temples, four Mosques, two Churches, and one Buddhist Temple. A sum of Rs. 2 million has been set aside by FCE for each institution.

Last week a ceremony was held to open the first finished site, an ancient Hindu Temple in the east at Thirukkovil Sri Sithra velauthaswamy Kovil. FCE'’s Religious Committee Chairman Moulavi Kaleelur Rahuman, Coordinator ACN Saloofeen, and Kovil'’s Chief Vannakkar Neethinathakkurukkal oversaw ceremonies with religious observances and special poojas. Also in attendance were FCE Project Manager Ian Johnson, Project Coordinator IM Ibrahim, Eng. MJ Akeel, as well as religious dignitaries, members of the Predheshiya Saba, and other guests.

The chief trustee of the temple, Ragunathamoorthy, who presided over the opening ceremony, thanked the FCE and Norwegian Foreign Ministry for their invaluable contributions and generosity in rebuilding this religious institute. This reconstruction will enable him to proceed with the site's normal religious activities without any inconvenience.Project Coordinator Ibrahim said in his speech that he was very happy to declare the first religious Institute in Thirukkovil open, and that he was now even happier that the second religious institute is to soon be opened at the Christian Church in Thirukkovil.

Ibrahim went on to say how he hoped everyone will have peace and security to live without fear and to continue with their everyday lives. In this way, he said, the FCE has concentrated on rebuilding religious institutions where people can purify their minds, find a spiritual way of wiping out unwanted activity, and live peacefully.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Workshop for Tsunami-Affected Vegetable Cultivators

A workshop aimed at imparting knowledge to vegetable cultivators on ecology and the protection of the environment took place last week. The workshop was organised by Thambiluvil Natpani Maha Sabai with the assistance of IUCN (World Conservation Union). The event was held at SWOAD Training Centre, Thambattai in Thirukkovil DS Division.

The workshop was held under the aegis of the Chairman of Natpani Maha Sabai K. Nadarajah Dharmalingam along with Agricultural Instructor Thirukkovil K. Kangatharan. Topics included crop protection, identifying pests and diseases, use of waste products, and more. Planned use of resources, crop planning, and marketing strategies were also presented.

One focus of the workshop was to encourage villagers to re-engage in the home gardening activities they were so active in prior to the tsunami. An open discussion of the problems facing home garden cultivators was held and generated much participation.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Inland Fisheries examined for Central Camp

Central Camp in Ampara District, an area where Sri Lanka's three main ethnic communities live together, has been neglected for many years and suffers from a variety of developmental challenges. However, the Canadian Agro-Sustainability Partnership (CASP) is now studying the possibility of developing inland/fresh water fishing in Central Camp.

At the invitation of the President of the Eastern Organisation for Democracy (EOD), Ranaweera Nilame, CASP's President and their Fisheries Specialist recently visited the location. The long-neglected fish pond in Central Camp was inspected and meetings were held to discuss how to move forward with renewing inland fisheries in the area. Other livelihood development projects of benefit to the residents of Central Camp were also discussed.