In February 2016 a team of ERR documentarians travelled to Sri Lanka in order to see how the country lives in nearly seven years after the civil war. For 25 days of stay on the island the author and editor of the film Artur Aukon, director Mati Kark and operator Väino Laisaar crisscrossed more than half of the country and talked with representatives of different ethnic and social groups.
The confrontation between the Tamils and the Sinhalese that lasted for a quarter of a century has left a serious mark on the social situation in the country. Until recently, there were special restrictions on visiting the northern part of the island, populated mainly by Sinhalese. Even today more military bases are located here. On Jaffna peninsula, where active military operations were carried out, there are still many destroyed buildings and uncleared minefields.
One of the central figures of the film is a driver and a guide of Sinhalese origin, who continued doing what he loves most – even during the war. Together with him the documentary team discovered the post-war Sri Lanka. He shares his memories about the conflict, his reflections on the current political situation in the country, and tells the story of how the war changed his life.
The film is divided into several parts, each one dedicated to a specific episode of the journey. For example, St. John’s College, Jaffna takes one of the central places in the narrative. It was founded by the Church of England in 1823. During the military conflicts most of its buildings were destroyed. The United Kingdom and Norway paid for their restoration. The current head of school N. J. Gnanaponrajah took office in 2006, during commencement of the last phase of the war. By that time, many children were already left without parents, placed in field centers for refugees and had no access to education. Thanks to the actions of the head of the college and the support of the EU countries, ca. 400 orphans received free education and accommodation on the campus. Currently teachers from Denmark and the United States are involved in internship under international exchange programs – they are trying to understand how the experience of the European multicultural education can be applied in Sri Lanka. With the support of the EU funds several school buildings for joint education of children of different nationalities were restored in the country.
The subject of inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue can also be traced with the example of drastically different fates of fishermen in the west and in the east of the country. They also share memories of life during the war, and reflect on the social and economic problems of the country.
Volunteers from European organizations help in solving these problems. In particular, the film focuses on the activities of the organization People in Need, representatives of which are trying to work towards two goals. This year they hope to get a grant for implementation of educational projects. The organization also successfully runs projects on implementation of modern waste recycling and bio-gas production technologies. These plants are used to supply both state institutions (for instance, hospitals) and private companies. For example, in the city of Batticaloa such eco-friendly technologies are actively used in the hospitality industry.