As customary Srilankans celebrate the New Year in April and this year too it was celebrated on the 12th-13th April 2012. The gathering of the survivors of Torture, rape, families of the disappeared and the families of the Prisoners came together on the 21st April to celebrate the Tamil/Sinhala New year to St. Mary’s church premises, Ampitiya Kandy. There were more than 250 participants for this annual celebration.
Preparations for the event began early that day. The HRO staff team worked very hard on the previous day and in the morning to ensure the smooth operation of the day.
For some survivors it was their first gathering of this nature and for other they looked forward to this event to enjoy, leaving aside all their worries and anxieties. Guests began to arrive from 09.00 am onwards, with attendees including victims and their families who are being assisted by HRO, parishioners, members of the Support Group and those from the wider Kandy community.
It was noteworthy that this year several families of the remand prisoners from different part of the country, even from very distant part came as participants of this annual event with 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. Special honored guests were: Rev. Sr. Martin, Rev. Sr. Esther of the Welcome house Kandy along with Dr. Clotilda and Mr. Suren Perera (Attorney-at-Law), with the director of HRO Fr. Nandana Manatunga.
With religious observances and lighting of the traditional oil lamp, the annual Tamil/ Sinhala New Year gathering was inaugurated at 10.30am. Attendees gathered and sat together on benches and chairs set up outside next to the church. 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. However Malani Serasinghe, a victim of police brutality, was successful in her attempt.
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. Sr. Matin, Sr. Esther, Dr. Clotilda and Fr. Nandana gave away the prizes to the winners and all the children who were present for the celebrations.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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