Sri Lanka Tamils defy ban on rebel memorial

Updated 19 May 2013

Sri Lanka Tamils defy ban on rebel memorial

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition Tamil party yesterday defied a military ban and staged a commemoration of their war dead as the government celebrated the fourth anniversary of defeating Tamil Tiger rebels.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said it staged the remembrance in the northern town of Vavuniya for those who died in the final battle which also killed Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
“We had a meeting to commemorate all those who died in the conflict,” TNA lawmaker Suresh Premachandran told AFP from Vavuniya, 260 kms north of Colombo.
The event came as Sri Lankan troops held a parades in the capital to mark the victory over Tamil Tiger rebels and an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed. The state-run Daily News said the Vavuniya meeting was illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would be jailed.

Witnesses said the TNA-led ceremony ended peacefully amid a heavy police presence in the area, a front-line town near the former war zone in the island’s north.
In the capital Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade showcasing heavy weapons used against the Tigers who were known for their ferocious suicide bomb attacks.
“We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away,” Rajapakse said. “There will be no room for separation.”
A naval craft taking part in the celebrations capsized and a search was on for an officer who was reported missing after the accident, a military official said, adding that the other four crew members had been rescued.
The military offensive which crushed the Tigers had triggered allegations of war crimes with rights groups saying that up to 40,000 civilians perished in the last months of fighting alone.


Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.