What We Must See: After War in Sri Lanka

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To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken because the greatest hazard is to risk nothing” -- Anonymous

A family of three reside at the Jaffna Railway Station. Selvaratnam Jeyalingam (43) and his wife Jeyarubi Jeyalingam (40) have lost their legs and fingers in 1992 in Vasaavilaan, in Jaffna Peninsula.

“We were at sleep, when a shell landed in our house during a heavy fighting. My husband lost his right leg, and I lost both of my legs and 10 fingers. We were lucky to have survived,” says Jeyarubi Jeyalingam. Tears fill both her eyes, and her voice cracks.

Slvaratnam Jeyalingam and Jeyarubi Jeyalingam


They got married in 1990 and were leading a normal life. Both husband and wife used to make sweet called “Muscat” and sell it for survival. But after they got injured, they have become immobile. Jeyarubi Jeyalingam crawls on the ground and grass to move around. Her husband, Selvaratnam Jeyalingam, has a wooden clutch to support.

“We got displaced from our place after we got injured, and moved to Oottumadam. We were staying at a house that belonged to a Muslim family for many years. Now, the owner has returned from Puttlam as the war has ended in May 2009, and we had to leave as they want to occupy their house. We had no place to go, therefore we found refuge at the Jaffna Railway Station. We neither have income nor help. We are struggling to survive daily”.

Sri Lankan Man


They are currently living in the station master’s room at the abandoned and destroyed Jaffna Railway Station with card board boxes of kitchen utensils and used clothes. Their kitchen is set up in a corner of the same room.

“People who visit the station give us some money or meals. Daily we depend on some visitors who visit the Railway Station. We are grateful to those who helped us in a big or small way. But it is for a very short period. And, we are worried about our future, especially our daughter’s education and future.”

Their only daughter, Tharshika Jeyalingam, (4) sits quietly between her parents on the ground of the landmark building of Jaffna, which bears the scars of a brutal war. She does not attend school as her parents do not have Rs.7,000/= (approximately US $63)to pay the Montessori. She either plays alone or with her parents in the railway station building. She does not have any toys.

“We are happy that the long running war is over. People begin to return to their places of origin and begin farming or fishing. But the future holds no hope for us, because we have nobody and nowhere to go. We hope and pray somebody will be able to help us soon.”

Jeyarubi Jeyalingam


They do not know how long they will have to stay here, as they have neither money nor property.

“Staying at the damaged railway station building brings back nightmares. But we do not have a better place to live. We are the innocent victims of a cruel war and we have been forgotten,” lament the handicapped couple.

For more information about the plight of this couple and others like them, Dushi can be contacted at dushiyanthini.pillai@gmail.com.

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