The team set off from the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute early in the morning. Barring some minor complaints about accommodation and food, the team seemed to be in good spirits. The Group headed South on the Galle Road to the Divithura Estate. Upon arrival the group was cordially welcomed with a cup of tea made from the leaves picked in the estate itself and some delicious, traditional “halapa” a sweet which many of the participants from the North confessed they had never tasted before. When the reception at the estate began, the gathering was informed, how the Matara DIRC had played an active role in helping estate workers secure national documentation such as Birth Certificates, National ID Cards and Marriage Certificates. Many of these workers in the past, especially during the time of war had, had to face severe limitations on their movement and access to other public and private services as a result of not having these documents. However, the Matara DIRC composed entirely of Sinhalese persons in collaboration with the estate supervisors, helped these individuals receive the required documentation. This was seen as another successful example of ethnic harmony, where Sinhalese persons showed no hesitation in helping out their Tamil brethren. It was hoped that examples such as this would convince the members from the North, that the ethnic conflict that had come into being was far more nuanced than the Sinhalese and Tamils being in conflict with each other.
Next, the team was able to enjoy a traditional Southern Sri Lankan meal of rice and curry at the Madu Ganga Conservation center located by the scenic Madhu Oya. The team from the North, was able to taste a wide variety of curries and sambols cooked in authentic Southern Sri Lankan style. Following the meal, the group was given the opportunity to watch a short documentary on the Madu Oya before setting off on a boat ride to Balapitiya. The boats skimmed across the crystal clear waters and snaked through and around the mangroves in the area. The adrenaline rushing, 45 minute boat ride finally came to an end in Balapitiya, where a distinguished panel of local government officials and Galle DIRC members were waiting to greet the team in a conference room atop a large floating raft made of plastic barrels. After being served tea, the dignitaries welcomed the gathering and expressed their keen interest at seeing a genuine peace being established in Sri Lanka, however it was merely one politician; the leader of the opposition in the local council, who spoke of the importance of implementing the 13th amendment fully.
Similar to Puttalam, Balapitiya has a large Muslim and Buddhist population. All of the local politicians that graced the occasion re-affirmed the religious harmony that existed in the region, claiming that it was the only town in Sri Lanka that had a road named “Sinhala Muslim Friendship Road.” At the conclusion of the gathering, the Galle DIRC had arranged the gifting of some artistic key tags resembling Masks, which the Ambalangoda area was world renown for. While these beautifully carved and painted items were famous for being used in traditional Low Country Sri Lankan dance items, they also made fine ornaments in a living room. To provide the visitors a more in depth knowledge about these cultural items, they were whisked to a famous mask museum which had on display an exotic array of masks of export quality. We were informed that the members in the Galle DIRC had kindly requested the museum to remain open half an hour late to enable the group from the North to visit it, having been delayed by the protracted nature of the welcoming ceremony in Balapitiya.
Next on the list was to visit the Hikkaduwa coast to enjoy a glass boat ride to witness the beautiful corals that had brought that town much fame. However, due to lack of time, the trip had to be postponed to the next day. The group instead headed to the Wakkwala Management and Training Center, where they were to spend the night.