The survivors of Torture, Rape, families of the disappeared and the families of the prisoners celebrated the Sinhala & Hindu New Year at the Fatima Retreat house premises recently. There were more than 300 participants for this annual event.
The HRO staff team worked very hard on the previous day and in the morning to ensure the smooth operation of the day. Getting out of the usual rhythm, this year the participants were divided in to 20 groups and each and every participant was given an opportunity to share their story in the group. Following the group activity, the members of each group were called upon to introduce each other and the issues that they shared. Soon they discovered the common uniting factor that they all seek Justice being survivors of some sort of grave Human Right violation.
Several families of the political prisoners remand prisoners and detained prisoners from different part of the country came as participants of this annual event with their children. The released prisoners and their families too joined the event with Torture, Rape victims and the families of the disappeared. They had so much to share with one another. The chief guest of the day was Rev Fr. Joseph Miranda of the National Seminary Ampitiya and the honored guests were the members of the support group, the Medical personal including Dr. Clotilda and the lawyers Mrs. Surangika Ranaweera, Mr. Padmadakshan with the director of HRO Fr. Nandana Manatunga.
With religious observances and lighting of the traditional oil lamp by the guest and the survivors, the annual Tamil & Sinhala New Year gathering was inaugurated at 10.30 a.m. at the Retreat house premises at Lewella Kandy. Father Nandana explained the significance of the gathering and welcomed all those who were present.
The games began with a race to inflate a balloon first until it pops and then proceeding to the finish line. This competition was opened to children, youth and the adults. Following this was a competition to see who was closest at drawing the eye on an elephant whilst blindfolded. Numerous attempts were made by the participants – culminating in hilarious consequences as many of the crowd had to duck and avoid being drawn on themselves rather than the elephant.
A competition to weave coconut leaves was then held with the best leaf being judged this was followed by a sack race for the children. Next a rope was suspended between two poles with buns hanging on the end of pieces of string. This game was a race to eat the bun off the string and continue to the finish line – but there was a catch: the children competing all had their hands tied behind their back!
Afterwards, three pots were suspended in the air each filled with water. The winner of the game was the person who smashes open the pot filled with blue water. Participants took turns armed with a wooden bat and were blindfolded. Needless to say, there were many failed attempts by individuals swinging wildly into the air and not making contact with anything.
The last of the games was a tug of war with women versus women and men versus men and then the winners of that round against each other. This proved to be the most exciting of the games due to the fierce competition felt between participants.
Finally to conclude the event a closing ceremony was held to award winners of the games and competitions with prizes. Fr Joseph Miranda, Dr. Clotilda and Fr. Nandana gave away the prizes to the winners and all the children who were present for the celebrations.
The participants and the guests joined the fellowship meal that was prepared by the HRO staff, concluding the annual Sinhala and Hindu 2014 New year gathering.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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