On the 23rd of May 2013, Nandasena, Dayawathie and their two children took part in the ceremonial delivery of testimonies at the Jesuit Retreat House Lewella. Nandasena is an ex-prisoner who had been in Bogambara-Kandy, Anuradhapura and Jaffna prisons for a period of time and was released from the prison on 19th May 2009.
Nandasena was selling fresh fruit on the pavement close to the Hatton main bus stand, and improved his business gradually but unfortunately the other traders began to harass him. During an attempt to kill him by adding poison to his lunch packet, his son aged 08 was poisoned by an unknown person. Nandasena who was lamenting over the death of his son was arrested, accusing him of possessing narcotics. Having being released by the magistrate, he was once again arrested and was detained for 02 years at the Bogambara prison.
When the political prisoners, during the time of Pinochet in Chile, gave testimony of their traumatic experiences, it resulted in diminishing their post-traumatic symptoms. Based on this experience, testimony therapy has been developed and used in the treatment of traumatized victims of war or other forms of organized violence. Many countries use testimony therapy in treating traumatized people, adapting it in different ways. Since 2008 The Human rights Office in Kandy uses testimony therapy in the form of a ceremony after a process of counseling.
For the ceremonial delivery of the Testimony of Nandasena and his wife, there were around 60- 70 persons including the Members of the Prison families, the members of the support- group, and well-wishers. The Guests of Honor for the occasion were Nandasena, Dayawathi and their two children. They were welcomed with a sheaf of beetle leaves signifying the blessings of God Naga and were accompanied to the hall with dancing and music.
The lighting of the traditional oil lamp was done by Nadasena, Dayawathi and Fr. Nandana the Director of the Human Rights Office. The oil lamp was decorated symbolizing the new life after the freedom from the Prison. It is not merely a freedom from the dreadful emotions like “I cannot, I am imprisoned.” It’s also a new birth, arising to new life to stand on one’s own feet with self-respect and dignity.
It was the moment for Religious observance. The visual song depicting the mental agony of the prison life, composed by a well-known prisoner raised the minds and hearts of the participants to the higher powers, to shower blessings on the survivor family.
The testimony stories of Nandasena and Dayawathie were read out by a family- counselor couple. The reading of the testimony was highlighted with visuals in the background. Visuals on the different aspects of the testimony made it possible for the participants to enter into the traumatic story with compassion and empathy. After the presentation of the testimonies, everybody gathered at the ceremony expressed their support and encouragement to the survivor family.
Fr. Nandana the Director of the Human Rights Office explained his vision and mission on the prison ministry. He admired and congratulated Nandasena and his wife Dayawathi for their courage and their efforts in starting life all over again after their traumatic experiences. Each participant offered warm wishes to the survivor family, encouraging them to live bravely and to look forward to a happy beginning once again.
Then the group took part in the celebration of the survivor family by taking part in a tea party.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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