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'May 17 2009, I saw my dad for the last time' - 14-year-old Mullivaikkal survivor

Kalaiyarasi Kanagalingam, a 14-year-old survivor of Mullivaikkal, spoke about the last memory of her father and the importance of Tamil genocide recognition at a conference hosted at the Houses of Parliament and attended by several senior British politicians and international legal experts on Thursday.

Read her full speech to the conference below.

"Hello, my name is Kalaiyarasi Kanagalingam, I am 14 years old. I'm here today to speak about how my life has been affected by what happened in 2009. 2009 was the most memorable and painful year of my life.

May 17 2009, I saw my dad for the last time. The moment I left my dad is still painful to me more than anything. I told my dad I was scared and him to please come with me, but he had to leave me. How could I say those moments by words? I saw other children like me crying for dad to come with them. I cried hugging my dad’s neck tightly but he only hugged me back and tried to say something with his eyes. 

Now, while I’m living in London, my mum and I still wonder whether he’s alive or not. Every day, we hide our sorrows inside and put a smile on the outside, waiting for my dad to come. I always wondered how my life would get so much better if my dad was here to guide me along the way when I’m on my darkest days.

That was not the only thing that happened in May 2009.

A few days before the last day I saw my dad, I was inside an open bunker with my relatives. I was looking out from the bunker and I could see my friend riding a bicycle. I longed to call out to him but before I could a shell that was launched by the army had exploded near us. I saw my friend’s head get thrown from his body by the shrapnel of a shell. I cried loudly trying to break apart from my grandma’s grip. She hugged me and comforted me but that horrifying scene is still giving me goosebumps whenever I remember it in my mind.

Not only that but two of my cousins died in an aerial bombing. I’ll never forget that incident. The bomb fell on the bunker and my cousins’ were trapped inside. My aunt was outside screaming and crying for help but all I could do was helplessly watch. I was in another bunker with my grandmother and other relatives. After the bombing stopped, we came out of the bunker. I saw my aunt standing next to the bunker, sobbing and yelling loudly.

Even today I live with these memories. But every day I wonder what happened to my father. Having the Tamil genocide recognised will not change my life. However, it might make it easier to find out what happened to my father and the many others who disappeared then".