Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) once the political ally to ruling Peoples’ Alliance of Sri Lanka, has come up with an innovative idea to link 300,000 plus Internally Displaced Persons with their relatives. Why not create Face Book accounts? Daily Mirror story does not say so, but perhaps JVP wants it done by the government.
Rohan Samarajiva made a less complex and more effective suggestion: Why not give them mobile phones?
‘The technology that allows freedom to talk even without the freedom to walk is the phone.’ He wrote in his popular column Choices in Lanka Business Online on June 01, 2009, ‘We have plenty of phones. Why not use them, to help the IDPs recover?’
We publish extracts from Rohan’s column below, in case if JVP or Govt is interested in a more practical solution.
In an ideal world, I would simply invite well wishers, friends and family to donate mobiles and talktime to the IDPs and ask the operators to quickly add capacity to their base stations near the camps.
But I do not live in an ideal world. Many lives have been lost; many bad things have happened; and more may happen. Let us start modestly. Slow progress is better than none.
The technology exists for restricting the numbers that can be called. The authorities could start with phones that will allow communication among the camps only; the next step would be to allow logged and rationed calls. Rationing would be necessary in the early stages because the IDPs do not have cash on hand.
The process can start with outgoing calls, with incoming being permitted gradually. Once connections have been established with friends and family and the authorities start allowing visits, the use of donated/purchased mobile phones and the sale of prepaid value within and nearby the camps can commence.
One way or another, let us address the requirements of resilience: the need to talk to friends and family, to tell the stories that bring us back to normalcy and help us push back the horrors that haunt our waking and sleeping hours. Food and medicine are important, but we all know that they are not enough. Psychosocial healing is needed too. And the ability to talk to loved ones is an integral part of that healing.
Let us help these our fellow citizens recover. That would be the beginning of healing the body politic and of restoring it. This is the path to really ending the war: the elimination of the conditions for the re-emergence of terrorism.
The full column is here.