Dialogue Workshop at Matara, Kamburupitiya – 19-08-2017

The participants sketched the Kamburupitiya village and specifically mentioned the horrific details of violent incidents occurred in their village. Following comments were made during their final presentation.
What we have illustrated here is our village. In1971 JVP insurrection near the Kamburupitiya Samupakara (Cooperative) building, three JVP rebels were murdered under a lorry…”
Another incident took place in Ransaagoda shocked this whole region. It was a crime committed by a father. He committed suicide after hanging his own three children in a tree…”
Near the Kamburupitiya Oil filling station we saw heaps of tires burnt along with the bodies of JVP rebels…”
The Giribara River which flows in our village. During the 189 JVP insurrections we saw the dumped dead bodies of JVP rebels flowing in this river…”
In 2003 Flooding we lost one of our sons to the water
When the Tsunami hit Matara area in 2004 our group members have witnessed the devastation it has caused and the piled up dead bodies in the area.

As displayed the group illustrated their experience of violence and following statements were delivered during their presentation.
Happened during the 1971 JVP insurrection. I was standing near the river and I saw a group of young men around twenty five individuals running towards the Kamburupitiya Cooperative building. And there was a parade of army jeeps coming towards there from the corner of the clock tower. The JVP lot started running everywhere and then we heard guns being fired. Me and one of my friends went over the place to find one of our friends. On our way another villager warned us not to go over there so we turned back. In the next morning we saw three dead bodies of men lying under a lorry. Their pockets were filled with bullets. The bodies were dumped in the same pit later…”
In 2017 flood occurred in our area. The water reached up to 8 – 10 feet and almost the Godhawa village was victimized. Later we received the aide and relief by the campaigns…”
The 1969 flood. I was the only one stayed behind to take care of the house and the animals. The water even reached up to 10 – 12 feet. It was dangerous…”
The 2004 Tsunami. My daughter was in Matara that day as she was attending a class. We hurried in to see if she was safe. She came home with one of her friends later. I remember how there was a blockade in the roads and even in Hospitals. The victims were brought in to nearby hospitals…”
We have also sketeched here the intimidation we received during the 1989 JVP insurrection. They often came at night. Didn’t let us fire lamps or even turn on lights. They harassed the villagers. They took our identity cards. During the insurrection they threatened us not to continue our work in paddy fields. We had eight sacks of worth paddy heaped in our field. It started raining and then the paddy seeds grew and we lost our harvest. This here in the sketch we drew how JVP rebels came at night and threatened us. My friend here was attacked once because he played the radio louder one night…”
Something we all witnessed during the 1989 JVP insurrection. It became almost normal to see dead bodies of young men burning in tire heaps along side of the roads. These are buses taking the turns in Mawarala, and when we took bus rides to towns, I remember how I smelled the horrible smell of flesh burning with rubber. It was awful…”

This group had lot of experiences of violent during the JVP insurrection. Following are some of the comments made by the participants on a variety of such incidents
1: “… This was a personal experience of mine. I was working in Maligawatta, Colombo and was returning back to Walapane, Nuwara Eliya. The three dead bodies I have shown here is something I saw. They belonged to my roommate’s family who used to work with me. He suffered a great deal during the 1989 JVP unrest. The JVP rebels killed my friend’s father and his two brothers in their paddy field in a most gruesome manner. This was done by his uncles’ advice. The treatment for the dead was awful. The JVP didn’t allow the caskets.
The corpses were to be raised below the knee and the religious praying and chanting were extremely prohibited. The monks who attend funerals were bound in trees and then fired upon. The dead bodies were to be buried in the same pit making mass graves. I was accompanying a priest to the funeral and I saw one of my friends being burnt in a tire. Some dogs that were closer by were also killed and seeing dead bodies became normal gradually…”
2: “…My family used to run a small restaurant where my mother used to prepare meals. One morning an armed gang busted in to the restaurant and had thrown my mother out. They stole all the prepared food and anything valuable in the shop…”
3: “… I am mother of three children. During the first JVP unrest in 1971, the JVP gangs set fire to my house. I took my children and ran till I reach the end of the village…”
4: “… This picture shows the devastation caused by the floods in our area in 2003 and this year. A whole family was who lived closer to a mountain ended up dead in Pasgoda area…”
5: “… During the 1971 JVP insurrection we were kids. We had no idea of what was happening. Just like this picture shows our house used to be on the other side of the Matara River and we saw the clear view of the Matara Cooperative building from there. It was always a battlefield in the other side of the river bank. The gangs open fired on the cooperative building and were running to escape the firing of army and police. We were hiding in the river bank watching all the commotion while our elders came running after us scolding us not to do so. And it was often a common scene to see washed up dead bodies on the river banks. The JVP and army used to kill men and then bind them together and throw them to the river. We ran to see the floating scary looking dead bodies in the river…”

This group presented various experiences from personal to community level as well as some of their personal grievances during the presentation. Following are some of the comments made by the participants
1: “… Here lies a man. Even though I didn’t get to meet him, he is connected to my life. He was my father-in-law. My husband was five years old when the first JVP insurrection in 1971 erupted. The JVP has abducted my husband’s father and his family didn’t receive any news about him for a long time. Later they got the information that he was killed along with other abductees in the Vilpita forest. My mother-in-law said that she saw huge lines of mutilated dead bodies everywhere in the forest. With some help from relatives she had turned corpses around to find the body of her husband. None of them managed to find him. This made a huge traumatic effect in my in-laws family. My husband still mourns the loss of his father. Frankly they don’t even know what happened to him. His whereabouts remain unknown. My mother-in-law managed to get her strength to survive for her family.
And from what she said during that time there were a system called Bheeshana pathweem terror appointments and since she had passed advanced levels examinations in science stream successfully she has got an appointment as a teacher. But with the regime change she lost her job while people who didn’t even have that kind of advanced level results were given positions in job opportunities. From what I gather they have went through so much pain, sufferings during the JVP insurrections…”
2: “…What we have sketched here is the Tsunami and the recent floods occurred in this area. Even though we didn’t see the Tsunami we lost some of our friends to it. During the recent flood my brother and some of his friends tried to help the flood-affected people and got themselves in trouble. They ended up stranded in Vilpita and were rescued after much effort. Even though my brother tried to help people the rumors said he was involved in stealing…”
3: “… And this is the incident which shocked us all. The Ransaagoda crime scene. The father killed all his children hanging and then he committed suicide too. There were many rumors spread related to this incident. From what I heard from a government official in Department of Women and Child Care, the girl who was also hanged here happened to be an outstanding student in her studies. According to the rumors she had been abused by her own father. But I think it was the villagers who pushed his father to do so because she was very good at her studies. The father was not an innocent character either. He used to drunk and beat his wife and children, and he also had a police record for domestic violence. The mother had escaped with her children to Weligama area but later father brought all of them home by force to commit this heinous crime. What I have to say is one should not spread rumors and tarnish the image of the victim. This girl was even bullied at her school due to the rumors and even after her deaths people are continuing to do so…”
4: “… This is an experience I endured during the recent floods occurred in our village. My mother has asthma and her conditions worsened during the bad weather. I hurried with my mother to the hospital and the response we received from the staff was very negative. They were focusing on a washed up body of a dead child even though there were lot of patients with critical conditions. Even after the confirmation of the death of the child, the staff did not focus on the rest of us. I asked from the staff to issue one tablet for my mother so she could use it to inhale. The doctors didn’t release any medicine and my mother conditions worsened with time. I took her to visit another doctor but she suffered a lot. I expressed my concerns about the behavior of the staff later and all I received was harassment…”
5: “…This story was revealed by one of the gentlemen in our group. During the 1989 JVP unrest, his sister happend to be in labor pain and they couldn’t get to any hospitals due to the blockades made by the army, police and the JVP. She had been in great pain and the dead bodies piled in the roadsides and the burning bodies in tire heaps has made all of them nervous and terrified. She had delivered her baby in the vehicle…”
6: “… This incident here is a personal experience of one of our group member. She used to live in Vilpita during 1989 JVP unrest and she had witnessed how the army kill an alleged JVP rebel leader and two of followers cold bloodedly in front of them…”
7: “… This is the Akuressa LTTE bomb explosion. We lost one of our beloved leaders that day. He used to be the former Vice president of Kamburupitiya administration division. His untimely death shocked us all…”
8: “… This is an incident mentioned by one of our group members. She has seen how two lives being lost to the river when a boat toppled in the river…”
9: “… This is a personal experience of one of our members in the group. She has also delivered her child during the 1989 JVP unrest and she said the memories were traumatic. We all know how calm and rested a pregnant mother should be when she is carrying a child with her. But hearing her story almost is shocking and feels scared to even imagine living in a time like that…”
10: “… We also face a huge issue to the habitation of alligators in Godhawa River. One woman was dragged in to the water and was killed by one animal. And incidents of attacks are increasing…”
11: “… One gentleman in our group has happened to be in the 1992 political rally of former President R. Premadasa’s when the exploded bomb took his life. He expressed how violent that experience was to us…”
12: “… The 2003 flood also did a great damage to our village. One of our group members has found a washed up dead body on her door step. The recent flood affected us all. We were in total black out, we had nothing to eat or drink. We suffered a lot due to this disaster…”

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