Real People Power - no politicians, no luxury vehicles


I set off for Rambawa in Anuradhapura at about 3.30 in the morning joined by Shameer Rasooldeen and Duthika Gayashan of News 1st. We stopped in Puttalam at about 5.45 in the morning to have a cup of tea. Puttalam town was waking up at the time. I was satisfied with an ulundu vadai and a parippu vadai and asked for a cup of condensed milk tea some tea shops are famous for in the area. It is always safer to have vadai when you are out than the famous and sometimes infamous short eats. However, cleanliness at most hotels in Sri Lanka is not up to standard. I wonder what is happening to cleanliness in Sri Lanka now. Hygienic levels in most hotels are appalling and consumers don’t have a choice. What are the Health Ministry and the local government authorities doing about it? Where are the Public Health Inspectors?

We drove through familiar roads passing ponds and lakes full of lotus flowers, cycling schoolchildren, women in saris riding their scooters, farmers and ordinary folks of Sri Lanka, on roads I have travelled many times over. I always found peace in the village and among the inhabitants therein. There is something special about the people living in the village and even the breeze. The true Sri Lankan smile is found there and not in the big city. It is a feeling I cannot express in words. It is truly heartfelt. Shameer was telling me that its time the authorities developed and provided basic needs to the villagers, rather than trying to implement mega projects which even they do not understand. I couldn't agree with him more and no wonder the village folks are still suffering without their basic needs.

We met our team led by the young and energetic Chathuranga Hapuarachchi, just 23 years old, who had camped in the area to conduct his project on Gammedda. He and his team were full of enthusiasm with evergreen Nethmi, the only girl in the group, flying the flag of good cheer with her old school buddy, Ramesh Irugalbandara. The difference here was that they were not mere social workers, but news reporters and cameramen, news directors, managers and editors and anchors who wanted to lend a hand to help their fellow countrymen. They were ably supported by the man in the area, the provincial correspondent Ifam, who was well grounded. Ifam told me how a Buddhist monk in the area had reached out to News 1st asking for help. I watched them work hand in hand with the villagers - men, women and even children, young and old. This was a real barefoot brigade and sons of the soil.

They cleaned the place, set up chairs, put up flags and banners and created a podium with a small table, a chair and a box. There were no expensive flowers to decorate it, but simple flowers from the area. It was a nature’s creation made by simple people from the area and news reporters. The only thing which differentiated them was the Tee shirts they wore. It brought smiles to my face. I asked myself .. could this happen in Sri Lanka? May be this is the Development Journalism I studied in New Delhi years ago . I saw it in action in Rambawa in Sri Lanka among our own people.

Little children in Rathmale in Rambawa got no proper pre-school and they were trying to learn under very difficult conditions. That too with no proper toilet facilities and inside a broken stick and clay hut, which too was a donated by Piyaratne, a former army soldier in the area. They had two teachers and they were paid by the moneys collected by the poor villagers themselves. The day I visited them with Shameer was an important day, since News 1st Gammedda 100 day project had found a willing donor in Ajitha Wijetunga to lay the foundation for a permanent building for the only pre- school in the area named as the Pradeepaloka preschool.

I saw little children smile; they danced, offered us flowers and greeted us. I could see twinkles in their eyes and hope written all over. The teachers, parents and everyone wore smiles of hope. The two chief monks were elated and offered blessings of the Noble Triple Gem. Government servants of the area, including the Pradeshiya Lekam and the much pregnant Technical Officer who had approved the project from her hospital bed, were there with a smile.

There were no politicians in their shining Mercedes or BMW or SUVs surrounded by bullying, foolishly arrogant security men; there were no body checks; there were no expensive garlands and cushioned chairs or short eats or food served from star class hotels. YES. There were no politicians in sight. But, there were enthusiasm, camaraderie, tears of joy, real village food, well water, innocent hearts, the will, courage and conviction to serve the people . We all knew that it was real people power, boosted by a young News 1st team and villagers and ably supported by a generous donor who decided to part with nearly nine lakhs of his money.

Jayawewa! Jayawewa!

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