This the fate of the husbands, sons and brothers of 12 Catholic and Hindu women of the village of Thumpalachcholai (Batticaloa district, Eastern Province), which since the end of thirty years of ethnic conflict have not heard anything of their men.
The constant petitions of these women, to central and local governments have received no answer, or economic aid. “Our first loss – some of them tell AsiaNews – is precisely this silence from the authorities. We want a solution. We have a right to know what’s happened.” In the village there are about 110 families Sinhalese and Tamil, who live by farming and fishing.
Hanna Lechchami has not seen her husband since December 20, 2008. He had gone out to buy some things with his son. “Since five o’clock that evening – she says – we are still looking. On 23 December, we complained to the village police, but no one ever did anything. Now, I look after my family and my daughter, and I do not know what to do it. ”
At first, when these women began looking for their missing, some military officers had responded that their husbands had been taken in for questioning, but would return soon. “We were told that they were suspected of having links with the Tamil Tigers – Maheswari Ravichandran says – but I know that my husband has never had anything to do with the rebels. I also asked the Llrc [lessons learned and Reconciliation Commission, the commission created by President Rajapaksa to investigate the events of the period 2002-2009, ed], with no response. And my husband has been missing from home since April 10, 2008. ”
The women tell how the Grama Sevak [village official] told them to accept the death certificate, to obtain state benefits for war widows. “We donìt want any document – responded the women – until someone tells us in an official way that our husbands and sons are dead.”
Alone and without their men, survival is very hard. Most of the time, they do not eat anything but rice with a little ‘salt and coconut powder (what remains of the milk). “It’s terrible – they reveal – we cannot provide more for our children.” When possible, some NGOs are trying to give them a hand. Among these, the Women’s Desk of the Nafso (National Fisheries Solidarity Movement), who recently gave them a large bag of dry food rations, the value of 1,500 rupees (about 9 euros). “Thanks to these – some women say – we can eat something different, at least for a few days.”
by Melani Manel Perera