President Maithripala Sirisena with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Secretary General Elhadj As Sy
President Maithripala Sirisena says it is people in the north and east who suffered most due to the protracted conflict and reconciliation should originate from people in the south.
“It is those people who have to cultivate reconciliation to live peacefully with the victims of the war. It is the mindset of the people that requires to be transformed to acquire reconciliation and healing the wounds inflicted by the conflict,” the President told the visiting Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy, who arrived in Sri Lanka on 1 March for a three-day official visit, called on the President at the President’s official residence on Thursday following his visit to the north to observe the Red Cross Society’s Post Conflict Recovery Program in the north.
Speaking with the Secretary General, the President said whenever people talk of reconciliation, the international agencies and communities rush to former conflict areas in north and east seeking reconciliation among the people. He said that the reconciliation must come from the people not due to inducement from outside.
President Sirisena pointed out that the decision to allow the singing of the National Anthem in Sinhala and Tamil at the last Independence Day came in for criticism from a substantial section of the people.
“This is why it is necessary to change the mindset of the people in the south. This is why reconciliation should be inculcated in the minds of the people in the south, mainly in the elderly people. The younger generation is not that interested,” he said.
Secretary General Sy said during his visit to Jaffna District he could see tremendous change for the better in the lifestyle of the people living there. “Now there is a big change in the lifestyles and attitude of the people living over there. The people, especially the young ones, were happy,” he said.
He added that the IFRC was instrumental in constructing several houses in this area and several thousands of people living in Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Jaffna Districts received assistance in terms of shelter, livelihood support, water and sanitation, infrastructure development and healthcare programs conducted by Sri Lanka Red Cross society.
Sy said that he would report to UN Office in Geneva regarding his positive experiences during his visit to former conflict areas.
President Sirisena thanked IFRC and Sri Lanka Red Cross Society for the humanitarian work they have been doing in Sri Lanka for long years responding to situations of natural disasters such as floods, drought and especially, during the past tsunami disaster, protecting and assisting those affected by conflict in north and east and accommodating the displaced returnees.