Prior to coming to Colombo they had met several times on their own and presented their grievances to the government authorities in the areas in which they lived. But in keeping with the general belief that Colombo is the place to come to get things done, they insisted on meeting central government authorities in Colombo.
At the meeting the women made several points. One was that they were keen to have their grievances heard by those in positions of authority. But what they usually encounter is the reverse. Instead of listening to what they had to say, and to what they wanted, those in authority came to tell them had been planned for them and what they should do. They were angry about the slow pace of change and the non-addressing of their pressing issues, such as that of missing persons.
The second politically significant point they made was to appreciate the freedom they had to travel to Colombo to voice their grievances to the government. They compared the present to the past, and compared it favorably. They said that in the past they could not have travelled from North to South with such freedom.
The third point that the women activists made was that the people they interacted with in the south of the country were sympathetic to their problems. They found there was an openness to learn about what had happened in the past, to make amends and to ensure that this did not happen again.
The sharing of sorrows and experiences was proof that engagement in itself is a healing exercise. It is not as if the people of the south have been spared the human rights violations of the past either. They also suffered during the time of the JVP insurrections both at the hands of the militants and security forces and again during the period of the LTTE. The women victims of war who came to Colombo appreciated that officials of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms listened to what they had to say. Now they expect them to act.