Jaffna: Two years ago, Sri Lanka’s three decade long war ended in May 2009. But, those who witnessed the brutality of the war are still suffering and struggling to forget the traumatic past.

Apputhurai Arumainathan (53) is one among many. He lost his wife Gunaambaal Arumainathan (50) in the last phase of the war in Vanni.

My wife was killed in a shell attack, when she went to the shop on 28th of April 2009 in Mullivaaikkaal. She got injured in her waist, and died on the spot” says Apputhurai Arumainathan with pain in his heart.

Like many others Apputhurai Arumainathan too got displaced many times, and spent time in the internally displaced camp in Vavuniya. Finally, he managed to physically relocate himself in Jaffna peninsula with his other relatives. But he still struggles to forget his traumatic memories.

Roman Catholic priest and a trained psychologist Father Damian Soosaipillai is helping the war affected children and widows in Jaffna. The dedicated service provided by the team is to help them adjust to normal life after the traumatic experience.

Thirty years of civil war has caused tremendous problems both physically and psychologically for the children as well as for the adults. The innocent civilians became the victims of this war. These civilians have already had many displacements, and above all they had been hit very badly by natural as well as manmade disasters. The fierce fighting has caused severe psychological damage and scarred mind” says Reverend Father Damian Soosaipillai.

Father Damian Soosaipillai and his team of eight counselors work in 21 villages in Jaffna. Father Damian Soosaipillai has been involved with psycho ~ social activities in the Jaffna Peninsula since 1980s.

I am a farmer and have been living in Maankulam for more than 30 years. I have a lot of farm lands there on Mallaavi road in Maankulam. I visited twice after the war ended in 2009. But, I am unable to go and live there permanently, because memories of my beloved wife always keep bothering my mind and thoughts. Both of us led a blessed life together. We never fought. I am unable to forget the wonderful memories of our wedded life. I always treasure them. She took care of me like a mother. I do not even know how to make a cup of tea. Now, I feel terribly lost and helpless without my wife. I will not be able to live peacefully without her. Everyday, I am struggling to come to terms with the reality, but I fail. War is cruel. Loss, displacement and trauma continued in our lives. On the other hand, the survivors are struggling to lead a life even after the war ended” laments Apputhurai Arumainathan.

There is a need for more counseling for the survivors of the war in Sri Lanka.

During the past few months people who came for psychological assistance including children have suffered much trauma and other symptoms like PTSD ~ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as grief, loss, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic illness sleep disorder, nightmare, starling for sudden noises, loss of interest, trust in the future irritability, poor concentration, poor memory aggressiveness. This evidence shows that there is an urgent need for psychological assistance in the North” further says Reverend Father Damian Soosaipillai.

 

  • Im really worried on this fact andthis is truthI have seen. People like this Fr Damian must be involved in mind building.

  • policyminded

    Hmm… they had shops in Mullivaaikkaal on the 28th of April 2009?interesting…

    • luxmy

      There were shops in Manik Farm camps when aid agents had severely restricted access.

  • Arulanantham Sivarajah

    An elderly Tamil lady was blown up to bits by the SLA bombs? Where is this come from?
    Rajapaksa Government assured us , zillions of times, that there were” ZERO” civilian causalities ?

    • Off the Cuff

      Arulanantham Sivarajah,

      “My wife was killed in a shell attack, when she went to the shop on 28th of April 2009 in Mullivaaikkaal. She got injured in her waist, and died on the spot” says Apputhurai Arumainathan with pain in his heart”

      Unable to read and understand English?

      Dont you have any sympathy for the man?

  • Ethirveerasingam

    There are approximately 70,000 families who lost one or more of their immediate family members from the last war alone. Some counseling are being given by a few but not in any systematic way. The GSL does not allow those NGOs and INGOs who are specialised in trauma counseling to do counseling work in the Vanni or in other parts of the North.

    The state hospitals have no funds or specialist resources to cope with the volume of counseling and mental health work needed in the North. The apparent reluctance on the part of the GSL to permit NGOs and INGOs to do counseling work is to keep the victims of the war from sharing, during the process of counseling, the loss of their loved ones, from anyone other than the government.

    Such prevention, is like the proverbial bull stepping on the person who fell from the tree.

    Sooner the PTF is dissolved the better it will be for the health and development of the lives of the idps in the North.

  • myil selvan

    You have raised a very crucial issue. Thank you for this article.

    Has anyone publicly raised this issue? Can we not start a campaign to pressure the GoSL to allow for psycho-social programmes in the Vanni and other parts of the North? There are Sri Lankan NGOs who want to help in this area but the Presidential Task Force (PTF) will not give permission. This is the perfect example of a racist government. They are not even willing to let others ease the pain of the survivors, even if they don’t want to do it themselves. Sunday Leader reported some suicides in the North due to trauma and a lack of psychosocial programmes for them to deal with it. Are there no organisations advocating for this with the GoSL? Have the TNA not taken this up with the GoSL? Apart from the Sunday Leader article I haven’t seen any in other media.

    • wijayapala

      Dear myilselvan

      There are Sri Lankan NGOs who want to help in this area

      Which ones?

      Can we not start a campaign to pressure the GoSL to allow for psycho-social programmes in the Vanni and other parts of the North?

      What is more important, these counseling services for war survivors or having war crimes investigations? Which one should we devote all our resources and time for pressuring GoSL?

      • silva

        NGOs and INGOs are eager to do the counselling and capacity building work. Government can get on with other businesses. But the problem is the government doesn’t like the Tamils to raise their heads.

      • myil selvan

        Dear Wijayapala,

        Which ones?

        Are you going to go on a witch hunt? There definitely are those willing. But we don’t live in a free country. Make it free and equal to the law then we’ll talk more on this.

        “What is more important, these counseling services for war survivors or having war crimes investigations? Which one should we devote all our resources and time for pressuring GoSL?”

        We don’t need to put all our eggs in one basket. We can do a dual track approach. War crimes investigations will take time. The more immediate need is counselling for war affected people. But war crimes investigations could put pressure on the GoSL to ease the restrictions. I think an example of that probably is the travel opening of the North(not entirely)to foreign passport holders.
        So we don’t need to devout all our resources but rather a majority of our resources to get psychosocial programees like counselling for war affected. And a minority to war crimes investigations, which would have a knock-on effect of easing restrictions in the North as well as creating a freer environment in the rest of the country.

      • jansee

        wijayapala:

        “What is more important, these counseling services for war survivors or having war crimes investigations? Which one should we devote all our resources and time for pressuring GoSL?”

        You mean to say we have to teach this regime how to manage the many facets of its administration? How pathetic? A govt has the responsibility, for instance to run its health programmes and its foreign office and just because of funding problems tell the people to stop seeking medical treatment ought to be provided by the govt.

      • jansee

        myil selvan:

        For a govt that caged 300,000 of its own citizens with no regard to respect and human dignity, expecting to entreat their psychological is obviously too much. Tamils and their suffering has never been on their radar. It is only in terms of votes and elections that the Tamils are “spotted”, otherwise in SL the Tamils are a non-entity and expendable.

  • wijayapala

    Dear myilselvan

    Are you going to go on a witch hunt?

    No, I simply suspect that you don’t know of any such NGOs and just made this up.

    But war crimes investigations could put pressure on the GoSL to ease the restrictions. I think an example of that probably is the travel opening of the North(not entirely)to foreign passport holders.

    I think that the opening of the North was because there hasn’t been a single explosion for over the last two years, not because of foreign pressure.

  • wijayapala

    Dear jansee

    You mean to say we have to teach this regime how to manage the many facets of its administration? How pathetic?

    But is it also not pathetic that you cannot answer my question?

    For a govt that caged 300,000 of its own citizens with no regard to respect and human dignity,

    What should the govt have done instead to find the remaining Tigers hiding among the population? Especially given that the people’s homes had been landmined by the heroic LTTE?

    • jansee

      wijayapala:

      When the SL regime forced Tamils from Colombo into buses to be forcefully sent to the North, everyone looked like Tigers to them. So, the ignorant talk of yours is not surprising.

      Truth, as it now emerges is a very rare commodity – finally the SL regime moved from a position of zero casualties to “justifiable” casualties. Even then there is no admission on the numbers. Now you know why I referred to the word “pathetic”? For a regime that did not give a hoot in murdering more than 40,000 lives – the word pathetic is grossly inadequate. You could see the measured and controlled tones of GR compared to his wild shots of his mouth those days. How pathetic!

      • wijayapala

        Dear jansee

        Truth, as it now emerges is a very rare commodity

        Are you speaking for yourself as well?

        For a regime that did not give a hoot in murdering more than 40,000 lives

        On the topic of the truth, what is your evidence that 1) 40,000 people were killed and 2) it was the regime alone who murdered them?

  • jansee

    wijayapala:

    Have you read the UN Panel Report? I know you guys and the SL regime try to discredit that report. Of course, you would. After all, a thief doesn’t admit to his theft. But it reinforced our claim that thousands of lives were lost during the last stages of the war – through the high handedness of the LTTE and the widespread bombing of civilians.

    • wijayapala

      Jansee, the Darusman Report made no claim that the GOSL killed 40,000 civilians.