A group of religious dignitaries and representatives of civil organisations in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Mannar and Puttalam recently visited the South on a goodwill mission to promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations under a programme organised by the National Peace Council. The delegates were shown around places of religious, cultural and historical importance in Galle and Matara districts and the Colombo – Matara Expressway which is nearing completion. They also visited several tourist attractions including the Galle Rampart, Balapitiya Madu River, Polhena Beach, and the Ambalangoda Mask Museum. They addressed a series of meetings at Divitura, Balapitiya, Galle and Matara attended by political parties, civil organisations and the media. Addressing the meetings the President of the Vanni Cultural Foundation, Ven. Buddhiyagama Chandrarathana Thera said that people living in the Jaffna and Mannar and Puttalam districts exposed to harsh climatic conditions were undergoing severe difficulties and pointed out that similarly the people in the Puttalam area also faced many natural disasters caused by floods and long droughts. Ven. Chandrarathana Thera spoke of the need to promote inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations to resolve major issues in the country.
The Executive Director of the National Peace Council, Dr. Jehan Perera said that in the past the civil society representatives from the North and the East who visited the South were suspected as terrorists. “However, today the people from the North and the East who visit the South feel free and at home, even if they are not conversant with the Sinhala language. They are not suspected as terrorists, but treated as brethren of one nation. More and more bridges of this nature should be built creating links between the communities in the North and East with people of the South thus promoting sustainable peace and reconciliation,” he said.
A representative of the “Sisters of the Holy Cross” Vavuniya, Rev. Sister Rita, the principal of the Casimiya Arabic College, Puttalam, DIG Southern Province, Neil Daluwatta, and several others addressed the meetings.