Praising Sri Lanka for making a genuine effort to help the war displaced people re-build their lives in a post-LTTE era, Bollywood superstar Vivek Oberoi says the recently concluded International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards ceremony would enhance Sri Lanka’s image overseas.
Addressing the media yesterday, after visiting Nedunkerni, east of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, a smiling Oberoi asserted that nothing could be as positive as the mega event to dispel hostile media coverage of the country, though the war ended last year.
He emphasised that bringing a large number of prominent Indian artistes on one stage was nothing but a tremendous achievement amid an organized bid to discourage the organizers.
Oberoi is the first Indian movie star allowed to tour the former battlefields. Oberoi said that some of his friends and associates had discouraged him from visiting Sri Lanka, particularly the Northern region as local officials were sure to deceive him. But they explained the actual situation and the difficulties faced by them in restoring civilian life in the once war-devastated region, Oberoi said, appreciating the ongoing rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement programme.
Commenting on the difficulties experienced by public servants, civilians, particularly the student community, he said that travelling by road was difficult. The overland ride from Vavuniya to Nedunkerni had not been easy due to the poor condition of the roads network, he said. But those who live there had to endure that suffering every day, he said, while reiterating his commitment to help Sri Lankan Tamils.
The outspoken actor dismissed the notion that the Indian film fraternity should have boycotted IIFA awards ceremony in Colombo to pressure the Sri Lankan government. He said that would not have made any difference, but by visiting Colombo, they could bring relief to those who really needed assistance.
He explained the difficult environment in which children displaced by the war as well as former members of the LTTE study. While acknowledging Sri Lanka’s efforts to improve the infrastructure, he said that the school, which he visited on Monday, did not have a roof. "Students studied under a tree," he said, commending the students for what he called a wonderful welcome accorded to him. He assured that action would be taken to provide them with new school buildings and help set up facilities necessary to accommodate about 1,000 students.
Commenting on efforts to dissuade him from taking part in the event in Colombo, Oberoi said that he would not give in to intimidation and threats. Before the event all asked why we wanted to have IIFA in Sri Lanka, but today no one would raise that question, he said.