April 07, 2006

Dateline Jaffna

I have been camping in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka since Sunday last.
I have been here on an assignment ­ to take classes for a bunch of young people from the Jaffna peninsula region attending a 14-month diploma course in journalism.
This is the second such assignment I have undertaken. In late 2004, I was here to work with part time as well as full-time journalists who work for the local thamizh newspapers.
These courses are promoted by the Regional Media Resources & Training Centre (RMTC) and have been funded and supported by UNESCO, the Royal Danish government and the University of Jaffna.
Since late April this year, about 30 young people who passed their Junior College (high school) exams, have been attending this course at RMTC. The intention of holding this course is to train and produce young people in journalism so that print, broadcast and television media organizations will have a new generation of trained people.
The training is well-intentioned because one senior generation of media professionals has been eclipsed by the ethnic violence and the subsequent developments in this part of the island-country.
A dozen young people attending the current course may take to journalism, perhaps next year. And for me personally, the assignments have been uplifting. For, in some sense, this is our contribution to a significant cause. The cause of training and moulding young people in a key profession.
There are many little ways in which two neighbouring communities can work with each other. More so when there are countless common links ands histories.
Last evening, my host, Fr. Ruban Mariampillai, a priest of the Jaffna diocese, introduced me to Fr. Stephen, who was in Jaffna from Colombo on an important mission. To do the preparatory work for the Vatican, which has recognised the contribution made by the late founder of this congregation of priests and nuns called the Rosarians. Founder Fr. Bastianpillai Thomas was a 'Jaffna man' who set up monasteries in this region, but the congregation spread to Tamil Nadu, spread faster across India and its headquarters is now in Bangalore.
Evidently, the Rosarians on both sides of the straits work together on common issues. On a sister campus of the University of Jaffna, where the departments of music and dance exist, students and faculty will be pleased to entertain guest faculty from Tamil Nadu. In recent times, only the famed Bharatanatyam guru, Adyar Lakshman, has been here on an educational assignment. There could be many more . . .
Clearly, there are many areas where the talented and the skilled on both sides can work together.

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