Visitors since January 2005: 965365

Hope and fear

11 weeks after the arrest of Michael Kreitmeir
Time heals wounds, they say. Have those wounds inflicted by the arrest on August 17th and my time in prison in Monaragala healed in the meantime? If you feel helpless and betrayed, and you are dependent on a legal system you can neither understand nor follow, it pulls the rug out from under your feet, on which you ought to stay firmly, particularly if you carry a lot of responsibility just as I do. When I think about these incidents today – from a certain distance – and how they affected me and Little Smile, then it was precisely this feeling of being helpless against all those abstruse accusations, which demoralized me. It seems as if foreigners, white people who engage in social projects, are always suspicious. The years of negative propaganda against non-governmental organizations “bear fruit”. The arrest, a procedure full of contradictions, was in many details illegal even for Sri Lanka: A special unit of the military, against which people cannot defend themselves here, because this “special task force” obviously does not need to comply with legislation – the armed incursion into the children’s village, the threatening behavior against the child minder, the fear of the children, the rummage through my things and sneaking in of forbidden things again, this time antique figures…….

Normally, you simply disappear behind bars until the indictment has been clarified – usually 6 month. I am sure that I owe the fact that I was spared from such a long imprisonment also to the commitment of the people in my old home country. Here I always have the feeling that the accused has to prove his innocence in court, and not that the prosecutor has to bring the evidence of guilt. The fact that I have quite obviously done a lot for this country is meaningless, it rather makes me suspicious. Everybody here knows who’s behind all of this, but this does not seem to interest the court at all. So far, it has not even been clarified if the substance, which the second officer had placed into our car, really consists of drugs and if so of what kind of drugs?
It is ghostly quiet – now that the anonymous threats against my employees have become senseless, because those who were supposed to be intimidated had already run away. If a car stops before our gate tonight, I no longer expect the worst – you inevitably learn to exclude the unchangeable from your thoughts and feelings. I have no choice anyway! I need all my strength to keep the various projects here somehow running with the remaining staff and at the same time have enough energy and time left for the children. Especially the older ones, who have realized that their “Lokuthatha” is not invulnerable, fear for their future. So here I have to rebuild confidence and convey optimism and security. But how do I get this optimism I wish to convey? The fact that I was arrested out of the blue and even imprisoned on the flimsiest of pretexts, that armed people could enter the children’s village, that any kind of accusations could have been made up, all this does not really help to rebuild confidence.
In the newspapers here it was said – with name and photo – that I was caught with 3 young women and 1.8 kg heroin, and furthermore, that I am one of the really evil whites. When we were complaining about these publications later they used printing errors as justification. It was a regrettable mistype, they said, that made 1.8 kg heroin of 1.8 gram presumed drugs. And there was no word of excuse for the defamation of Bawani, the chief child minder of the boy’s home and mother of Divia, whom we had picked up at the boarding school of the nuns at the east coast to take her and her 14-year old friend to the children’s village over the holidays. But what really hurts is the fact that people, who have received help from Little Smile for years, reacted particularly disgusted – even aggressive.
Without the encouragement from my old home country it would have been extremely difficult for me to motivate myself. And therefore, it was so very important for me – for us – to realize that we are not alone, that there are people who are concerned about ensuring that this “Little Smile” for children in need will endure in Sri Lanka.
Especially those, who have long been engaged in working for Little Smile from Germany and who followed the events here with great sorrow, have received so much encouragement. My father, my wife – they often heard: “You are not alone!”
I’m particularly grateful for this.
Working as a journalist, more than 2 decades I felt obliged to report what I had thoroughly researched. But I was always careful not to harm people and not to consider my own journalistic success to be more important than their lives. Especially after the bad experience I have had with the press here, it was very important for me to see that the German press did their job fair and responsibly. Particularly the “Donaukurier” with its regular reporting has shown that sometimes it is about more than the distribution of “hot news”. So, again – many thanks for this as well!

On Friday the 29th of October I will again appear before Court in Monaragala and on November 25th in Bandarawella. I will pack a toothbrush, a towel and the few things you may and must take with you to jail. Here I have learned to be prepared for anything.

How will the Little Smile projects here continue without me? What can I do today to accelerate the process of becoming independent? Who might grow into the respective responsibilities and for which projects we might find partner organizations or entirely give them up? Next to all these important considerations I learn every day anew how necessary – especially in times of change – a central figure is, someone who does not only show the direction but who is there for all the sorrow and the problems and the 1001 questions, which every new day brings, someone who is not concerned about the own future and security but who lives for and with Little Smile.

Well, I’m really not concerned about me, because no matter what happens and no matter what other people say or newspapers and TV might show, I know that I’m doing the right thing.

Of course, these insecure times have also badly affected me and were a real burden. Suddenly I saw me and my work confronted with mechanisms that are beyond my control or influence. Suddenly there are other people who decide if and how it shall go on with Little Smile, and also if I will get the time to prepare the children’s aid organization for the time when I’m not here anymore. This is hard to understand and accept for someone who is used to take full responsibility for his life. I frequently asked myself: was it worth it? Wouldn’t it have been better to give in to the Tamil minister’s blackmail attempt and thus buy peace for Little Smile? Wasn’t it naïve to think sincerity and honesty will win in the end? Wasn’t my work too successful to be left in peace? I always wanted to create a solid financial basis in order to avoid that the children’s village will depend on “begging”. And then it was precisely this financial strength which put us in such a weak position, because it provoked envy and desires. Is it in the end my own fault that this situation has come out? Thank God there is hardly any time for such doubts – there is simply too much work.
In our region the rain season starts, and as always when the weather changes many children are sick. Now the remaining child minders and employees have to work more trying to compensate somehow for the reduced staff – we are looking for new colleagues. The construction work on the international school in Kalmunai and the peace center in Galle, which was interrupted when I was arrested, has started again. The German ambassador, Mr. Jens Uwe Plötner, has visited us in the children’s village and thus clearly showed solidarity and support of my old home country. My son Manuel had applied for a sabbatical and was constantly on the move promoting the Little Smile organization – he also met Sri Lanka’s consul general and ambassador in Germany. Sri Lanka’s powerful have signaled their willingness to guarantee a fair treatment of the “case Kreitmeir” – so there is hope. Actually, there is always hope as long as we believe we can change whatever destroys our world and the future of our children, and stand together for common action.

Result of the hearing on October 29th at the court in Monaragala: After a waiting period of 3 hours the court was adjourned till the 25th of February 2011. Kreitmeir was neither heard in court nor did they have the results of the examinations saying what substance it was they had “found” in the car.