British Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Laura Davies visited the Eastern Province from 9-12 September, travelling to Pottuvil, Arugam Bay, Oluvil, Kalmunai, Kattankudy, Batticaloa and Trincomalee. She met a range of individuals and communities, including government and military representatives, civil society, political parties and British Nationals.
The trip started with a Consular visit to Arugam Bay, an area increasingly popular with British tourists. Together with the High Commission Vice Consul, Laura Davies met the tourist police, British Nationals living in the area and some resort owners, as well as visiting the hospital. In addition to helping the High Commission give the best advice we can to help British Nationals enjoy a safe holiday, the visit enabled the Vice Consul to offer some on the spot assistance to a British National in difficulty.
Laura Davies then met a range of Government and Parliamentary interlocutors, including the Mayor of Kalmunai, the Government Agent of Batticaloa, the Senior DIG East, the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, the Deputy Commander of Eastern Naval Area, and members of the TNA. Visits to the Oluvil and Trincomalee harbours provided opportunities to see the potential for development, to discuss the importance of attracting investment and value-added employment opportunities to the Province, and to understand how women’s empowerment schemes could help marginalised groups such as the 29,000 widows in Batticaloa.
The visit included discussions with humanitarian workers and civil society organisations, including a group of language activists, working to break down language barriers in their communities and make trilingual Sri Lanka a reality. They highlighted several successes, including changing monolingual signs, and praised the Ministry of National Languages’ 1956 hotline, which anyone can use to report signs or documents which are not accessible to Sinhala, Tamil and English speakers.
Reflecting on her visit, the Deputy High Commissioner said:
“I was fortunate to have such a comprehensive visit to the Eastern Province and to have been able to meet so many different people. The trip gave me an excellent sense of recent developments and successes, of economic needs and potential, as well as some of the challenges the Province is working to overcome.
I was fascinated by the Province’s diversity and complexity, and moved by its inhabitants’ determination to make a success of new opportunities. New roads and bridges have opened up markets and encouraged tourists, but many issues around land remain and the reality of co-existing with military forces is still difficult for many. I met some remarkable individuals and heard many different ideas and points of view. As always, the UK welcomes development and new economic opportunities for all communities.”
The Deputy High Commissioner has also blogged about her visit to a Child Action Lanka field centre outside Batticaloa and the BHC has published photos and tweets of her visit, including of the Thiruchendur Murugan and Koneswaram temples, at flickr and ukinsrilanka.