LTTE massacre site is haven for Tamil victims
A place where one of the most devastating atrocities was committed during the history of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, had become a symbol of peace and coexistence after the tsunami.
Vidyananda Maha Pirivena, the very place where 31 bodies of Buddhist monks killed by the LTTE in 1987 in Aranthalawa, is today the home for around one thousand tsunami victims.
Most of the refugees sheltering in the temple are of Tamil origin.
"As Buddhists, we do not consider race, or religious differences. We helped whoever came here. We cooked for them. Looked after the injured and helped out in any way we can," said one of the monks.
"Early in the morning we make milk-tea (kiri-te) for everyone. Then we help them out during the day. All the monks in this temple work together," said another novice monk.
Ven. Kirindiwela Somarathana, the head monk of the Vidyanada Pirivena's predecessor Ven. Hegoda Sri Indasaara, was one of the victims of the LTTE massacre.
Today Ven. Somaratne says, everyone has to learn from life. "Tsunami had taught us a lesson about unity. We managed to make our temple a sanctuary for the Tamil victims. The very hall where the bodies of thirty one slain monks were kept had today become a shelter for these helpless Tamil masses."
"Our novice monks make tea for them in the morning. Cook meals for them. They carry the disabled to toilets. Everyone work with such dedication. We are doing this sacrificed to cultivate peaceful existence for all," says the Nayaka thero.
In many places in Ampara, people are struggling to face the reality of what is ahead for them.
Lakshmanan Taumani is a widow who is sheltering at the relief in Pandirippu Hindu College She had lost two of her children when the sea came ashore on that fateful day. Now she is struggling to bring up the three remaining sons.
"One of my daughters was a teacher. The other one was doing higher education. I lost both of them. My only ambition now, is to educate these three children," says Taumani.
Sumandasa Buddhika is a refugee at Kalmunai Sinhala School. Her mother is Tamil and the Father is Sinhala. She had lost her father and the mother is gravely ill.
"I can't keep my mother here because she is prone to infection. She needs to be taken for surgery within the next few days. So, I kept her at a friend's house until we get a date in hospital. What we need more than anything else is a home."
Iliyathammbi Sivakumar at Pandirippu Hindu College relief centre had lost his wife and two children. He is left with the one son who managed to survive.
"I can't think straight. My head is spinning. Our national and provincial leaders must come to our aid at this moment of need."
In Kalmunai Islamabad camp, the projects are underway to build temporary homes for the refugees.
They expect to house three families in each home. KA Manohari is one of the residents in this camp. Manohari is trying to gather her thoughts about the future.
"We are all living here in harmony. There is no difference between Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people. We need housing very quickly. We lived very near the beach. With the new restrictions of one hundred metres, I do not know where we can go!"
Gamini Abeypala was a proud owner of a successful Bakery. He had lost his business and three million rupees worth of equipment. Now he is penniless and is living in a refugee camp.
"We had got nothing form the government. The officials were here. They collected information about what we had lost. They wrote it all down. Then they went away, and never came back."
Many of the refugees had praise for the Police Special Task Force [STF]. People say, the officers had been of immense help at a time of difficulty. Karativu area STF commanding officer is ASP, BM Madduma Bandara.
"Even I was surprised by the humanity shown by some of my officers. They worked with compassion. This is a tragedy which affected all of us without race, class or gender. We are all human beings. Many of our officers were empathising with the experiences of these people. This is a tragedy for my motherland. For all the people who live in it. Our only priority was to help the victims," says the STF commander.
In Ampara it was a common site to see LTTE cadres working in many of the camps along side the STF.