The survivors of Torture, Rape, families of the disappeared and the families of the prisoners celebrated the Sinhala & Hindu New Year at the Kandy, Gurudeniya School Grounds on the 23rd April 2016. There were around 300 participants for this annual event. The objective of this gathering was to integrate the survivors and their families to their own families and to the larger family, the society. It was also an occasion for the survivors and their families to release the stress and meet courageous victims of similar Human Rights violations and find strength in them.
The HRO staff and the support group prepared the school ground on the previous day to ensure the smooth operation of the day. Several families of the political prisoners, remand prisoners and detained prisoners from different part of the country participated along with their children. The released prisoners and their families too joined the event with Torture, Rape victims and their families and the families of the disappeared. Majority of the participants being Buddhists & Hindus, they celebrated the event together as a family with joy to mark the New Year.
Mrs. Kumuduni Vithana the Coordinator of the Kandy Regional Office of National Human Rights Commission was the chief guest of the day and Mr. Attanayake the welfare officer of the Dumbara Bogambara Prison Rev. Sr. Philo, the Superior of the Sisters of the Cross Convent, members of the support group and the director of HRO Fr. Nandana Manatunga were the honored guests.
With religious observances and lighting of the traditional oil lamp by the guest and the survivors, the 2016 Tamil & Sinhala New Year gathering was inaugurated at 10.30 a.m. Father Nandana Manatunga explained the significance of the gathering and welcomed all those who were present.
The traditional New Year items were included in the agenda such as, drawing closest the eye on an elephant, whilst blindfolded. Dashing the three pots 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.
In order to get the participant of the seniors and children, common items were included such as, a race to inflate a balloons and run to the finish line, filling the water to a bottle as a group with two hand, passing from one to another.
A competition to weave coconut leaves was then held with the best leaf woven being judged and this was followed by a sack race for the children. A rope was suspended between two poles with buns hanging on the end of pieces of string, the children raced to eat the buns off the string and continue running to the finish line – but there was a catch: the children competing all had their hands tied behind their back!
There were items for the support groups as well as the staff of the HRO and last of the items was a tug of war between two women’s groups and men’s groups. The winners of the first round pulled the rope for the finals. It was the most exciting event item of the day between men & women as the participants rallied round in support of both teams.
Finally to conclude the event a closing ceremony was held to award winners of the games and competitions with prizes. The Chief Guest and the Director of HRO 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 2016 New Year gathering.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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