The Visit of Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi to Sri Lanka
13th to 19th February 2010
The visit of Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi was on the invitation of Initiatives of Change, Sri Lanka. The visit, the main purpose of which was to meet friends from the past and in relatively small groups, those who could help in building bridges between the many groups, who over the years had allowed barriers to arise and divisions of mistrust to be created. The visit had as its theme, ‘ Onward with Truth and Integrity for Justice and Peace. ’
The Gandhis were met on arrival at 2230 hrs, at the VIP lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport by Ms. Rohini de Mel and Hiran Fernando.
Their host in Colombo was Mrs. Shirani de Fonseka, President of the YWCA – Colombo. On the 14th those named above, together with Vijayalakshmi Subrahmanyan, Nivanka Bhagwandas and Mahesha Adhikari, left for Kandy with a brief stop at the Inter-cultural research and Education Foundation headed by Dr. Antony Fernando who over the years has taught numerous young people, whose mother tongue is not English, to speak the language effectively. This was also the launch of the book, ‘Teaching English ….. the effective way,’ authored by Dr. Fernando who presented the first copy to Rajmohan.
In Kandy, the Gandhis made their home at Castle Hill, overlooking the city and the Temple of the tooth. Dinners were with prominent personalities in Kandy, Prof. Gananath Obeysekera, distinguished academic, and Derek Nugawela, in whose ancestral home Mahatma Gandhi had been a guest in 1927.
Discussions were held with the IofC team who were in Kandy with regard to the Sri Lanka programme, the persons to meet and with emphasis on the future programmes to strengthen the work of IofC, Sri Lanka, to meet the immediate challenges the country is faced with, and reconciliation after nearly 30 years of war. Useful discussions were held at Castle Hill with Professors of the University of Peradeniya.
On 16th February afternoon, a meeting was held at the Kandy YWCA with several members of civil society. A welcome dance by young girls of the YWCA hostel preceded the meeting which terminated with time for question and answer.
Back to Colombo
The YWCA Colombo was the host to Educationists and representatives of NGOs on the afternoon of the 17th. Following the speech by Rajmohan a lively discussion ensued.
On 18th February Rajmohan met Mangala Moonesinghe, the former Sri Lankan High Commissioner for India and also UK. Following which was an Interview for television, broadcast over several channels of the television company and also over their Radio. This was carried as a news item in Tamil, Sinhala and English. Lunch followed in the home of Rohini de Mel attended by former President Chandrika Banadaranaike-Kumaratunge and also Bala Tampoe, Trade Unionist, who has been the General Secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile Union for 62 years.
The second programme at the YWCA Colombo was a meeting with the Business Community, together with Community leaders. Among those present were State Minister Ferial Ashraff, Chairman of Dilmah Tea Merrill J. Fernando, Chairman of Bartleet and Co., Eraj Wijesinghe and others. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala., who was a candidate for the post of Secretary General United Nations.
On the 19th, the day of departure, Rajmohan and Usha met with the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Ranil Wickremasinghe.
This report of the various meetings is also available as a PDF file with photos. It can be downloaded here (1.8MB)
Over the next few months, Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi will be engaging with Initiatives of Change teams in Indonesia, Africa, Western and Eastern Europe and Central and South America as part of a ‘Journey of Dialogue and Discovery’. Their journey will be shared through regular reports, podcasts and ‘tweets’ via www.iofc.org