The trip to the north-east and down the coast to Ulle (Panama was not recommended due to the state of the road after the recent flooding) was relatively uneventful as far as the ‘situation’ was concerned as, apart from the more frequent check-points and more detailed sussing out of the vehicles and passengers by the guardians of our security, no ‘action’ was encountered. Just south of Kayankerni we did see some UN vehicles with Police escort, lights flashing and flags flying, leading a convoy of buses towards Vakarai – no doubt to transport the many refugees fleeing their homes, now probably devastated by the recent heavy exchange of artillery fire and other bombardments.

The most fascinating aspect however, was the considerable presence of Karuna cadres – mostly very young boys, armed and casual, but with pseudo-camouflage-kits manning the Karuna posts at most of the small towns we passed. In Pottuvil, the Karuna contingent was based in the middle of town, cheek by jowl with the Police and STF patrols. In fact that particular post is right opposite the Police post where applications for permits to travel out of the town and past the checkpoint are issued.

Know what maaan? Da Sheriff tol me dat when he be passin dat Karuna post, one of dose teenage looking kids raise his gun an make like he be goin to stop da vehicle, but when our maan slow down he probably realize it be a mistake an move away. So den da Sheriff aks – an quite rightly so – what do we do if som dude in civvies an arm wit dat automatic weapon try to stop him? Do he stop an let dis kid aks queschuns an sheet or what? Dis be som rotten sheet goin down and dose governmen mout-pieces be spewin out a whole lotta crap. Dere be no doubt dat dose Karuna cadres be extortin, abductin and all dat odder sheet an dat dey are bein protected. Don need no geeniasss to figure dat one out.

That’s about the way it is, so the ‘Rock Report’ can’t be too far off the mark in that we do know that Karuna’s guys are armed and are well distributed in the east (if nowhere else), that they are abducting and extorting (the Sheriff has confirmed this from personal experience at some of the tsunami-related building sites he moves around in) and they have no fear of the security forces – being pretty much ‘in your face’, as the Sheriff has found out – and as we saw on this recent trip. How then, do we deal with the government stance in response to the ‘Rock Report’ allegations of this collusion with Karuna forces regarding the abduction of children?

So what else is new???

The rest of the days spent in those parts had all to do with ‘work’ and although the few moments of respite were made use of to the best of our abilities, it felt great to finally reach home after the journey – parts of it on what could be best described as ‘excuses’ for roads, the long hours traveling and the conditions encountered en route. This wasn’t all that difficult for us guys that do this rather frequently, but for the foreign elements that have to experience this ‘other world’, it can’t be all that pleasant. Gone are the days of that east coast that some of us remember all too well.

Fortunately the ‘work’ part of it was rewarding – considering what has been accomplished during the past two years in spite of difficult and dangerous conditions. So I guess the trip was successful in that it showcased the work that had been achieved and indicated to to all concerned that the local efforts had reaped results that exceeded all expectations – and so it was all worth it in the end.

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