Monday 11th April, 2011.
Sinhalese / Tamil New Year scheduled for the 13th-14th April was celebrated by the survivors of Torture, rape, families of the disappeared and the families of the Prisoners at of St. Mary’s church premises, Ampitiya Kandy. There were more than 250 participants for this annual celebration.
Letters of invitation were sent out to guests a few weeks prior to the event. Preparations for the games and setting up the event began early that day. The HRO staff team worked very hard in the morning to ensure the smooth operation of the day.
At 9.30am attendees gathered and sat together on benches and chairs set up outside next to the church. For the opening ceremony Dr. Clotilda, Mr. Jayasundera, Jessica Callen and Father Nandana sat at the front and Father Nandana formally opened the event with a moments silence in prayer. The guests were each presented with a bunch of beetle leaves as this is a traditional Sinhalese custom in greeting. The honoured guests were invited to the front to light the traditional golden Sinhalese oil lamp which had been garland with flowers for the special occasion. After the speech by Father Nandana extending a warm welcome to all attendees, Mr. Jayasundara was then invited to address the audience. He spoke of how a meaningful Sinhalese and Tamil New Year should be celebrated. He explored how the two ethnic groups of Sri Lanka should come together at this special time and leave all problems from the recently-ended conflict behind.
The opening ceremony was followed by everyone joining together in the front garden of St. Mary’s church to enjoy the day’s festivities. The games began with a race to inflate a balloon first until it pops and then proceeding to the finish line. Following this was a competition to see who was closest at drawing the eye on an elephant whilst blindfolded. Rita, a rape victim who had been assisted by HRO, had brought her brother with her to the event and he won this game as he was able to draw the eye exactly correct on the elephant. Numerous attempts were made by other participants – culminating in hilarious consequences as many of the crowd had to duck and avoid being drawn on themselves rather than the elephant, and one eager blindfolded competitor even walked into a tree during all the excitement.
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.
A competition to weave coconut leaves was then held with the best leaf being judged by Jailer Nandani and sr. Matilda.
This was followed by a sack race for both children and adults, and then (a rather muddled) yoghurt-eating competition. For this participants entered in pairs – one was blindfolded and given a yoghurt and their partner had their hands tied behind their backs. The person blindfolded had to feed their partner the yoghurt – causing much entertainment and amusement in the crowd due to the messy consequences! 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. Father Nandana gave a thank you speech to all who had attended and the HRO staff then distributed presents to all of the young children. Jailer Nandani shared with the group her thoughts on Father Nandana’s involvement in the prison and the help given to women detainees. She expressed her appreciation to Father Nandana and the HRO staff thanking them for their work. Afterwards all attendees of the event enjoyed a lunch together to conclude the day.
Jessica Callen - Human Rights Office, Kandy
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
@ 2019 All Rights Received