A 16 year old Mullivaikkal survivor, who was just 5 years old at the time of the massacres, shared their experiences of the genocide on the eleventh anniversary of the atrocities.
Pakaloan Vamanan now lives in France.
18th May 2009
18th May of 2009, a day remembered by Eelam Tamils as the day that marked the end of a great armed struggle for equality and rights. A day that ended the hope for freedom and justice for many.
I remember that day with the utmost detail possible for a five-year-old child. I remember the massive crowds of people walking with everything they could carry looking for safety and justice. I remember the starving children and suffering mothers hoping only for their survival. I would like to share some of my experiences and memories to this world that knows very little of this massacre.
I was five years old at the time with only some idea of what was happening, walking through piles of bodies clinging tightly to my mother’s hands. I looked up at my mother in confusion and terror to be reassured and noticed the looks of both fury and sorrow on her face. We walked for miles everyday without knowing our destination, just following the crowd hoping for safety and the end of this war. The night was lit with crossing bullet trails and bomber jets. We hid at night under bunkers without food or water barely clinging on to our lives. We had to eat rice porridge to sustain our life and it is still eaten on this very day in my and many other households to remember this day. My three-year-old brother at the time had to be carried around for miles and that left me to walk on my own. I remember seeing a baby crying for food on top of their dead mother. The final day when every one was told to surrender and to be put into a concentration camp, I remember asking my mother for water. When she asked a Sri Lankan army officer, he pointed at a river with a dead dog floating in it, implying that was the water we had to drink. I remember having no toilets and having to use the bushes. I remember having severe diarrhoea once and my mother waiting to get medicine and returning empty handed day after day. I remember seeing many children with their grandparents and many others with just their siblings. I remember being separated from my father and worrying about if I will ever seeing him again. I saw babies being born in those camps and their mothers struggling to feed them. I remember when an army truck came into the camp and started throwing ice-creams saying that they had won. I saw the sombre look on my mother’s face to be accepting a gift for the defeat of our armed struggle but also relief to be able to give us something to eat. I escaped after a month with the help of my aunt but I had to leave my family behind. I was separated for a month from any of my family and I remember crying for my mother at night and having terrifying dreams from the things I saw.
Even though I went through this horrible experience I consider myself one of the luckiest people to still have my parents and family alive today to care for me. I think of a friend regularly who was the same age as me. She had lost both of her parents and only had her ill grandmother and her one-month-old brother that she had to care for. I still think of the people who lost their parents, children and families yet still living with hope to get freedom and the justice they deserve. I think of those who are disabled and still try their hardest not to be a burden to the people around them. I often think of how lucky I am.
This time of my life will forever be tied to my memories and I will not give up until freedom and justice is served.