01/22/2011, 00.00
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Tamil war widows must have justice

by Melani Manel Perera
The women are victims of daily humiliation and social rejection. Considered a symbol of bad luck, they have difficulty finding work despite many having studied. Often they cannot support their children. In a meeting with Llrc, a Catholic priest has urged the government to recognize them.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The government must recognize all the war widows as a group in need of special attention, because civil society can not escape responsibility towards them. Otherwise, "their stories remain buried in the sands of history, blown away by the winds of time." These are the demands of Fr. Oswald B. Firth, president of the Association for Peace and Development (papd), in a meeting with the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (Llrc) held on 20 January in Colombo. The PAPD is a nongovernmental organization founded during the war in 2001 to promote inter-ethnic harmony and a spirit of understanding among all major communities in the east, directly affected by war.

Addressing the Llrc members, Fr. Firth said that "many of them have studied and passed the General Certificate of Education (GCE O / L) with good grades, but because of the war could not continue studies. Some speak Tamil and Sinhalese. "

The PAPD President, speaking of his experience working with war widows, said that these women live daily humiliation and social rejection. Another major problem concerns the economic survival difficult because of low-paid and temporary jobs. The priest said: "The types of work available to them hardly ever matched their skills. They were never made permanent in their employment, and were therefore deprived of employee benefits. On quitting these temporary sources of income, they were often empty-handed carrying with them the same feeling of financial insecurity that has been the lot of nearly all war widows. "

The marginalization of Tamil widows is a real social stigma. "They can not marry - continues Fr Firth - because social mores find it deplorable. These women are often alone and insecure, and are treated as a symbol of bad luck in their own circles. Widows of war are certainly among the most vulnerable groups of society”.

The meeting was also attended by three widows of the eastern district of Batticaloa: Suresh Kumar Maheswari, 52; Shiwanthi Manoharan, 43; Jayaseelan Loretta, 40. In presenting their testimony  to the Llrc, the three women stated categorically that they can no longer tolerate any form of violence and war, since they have been among the hardest hit victims. "The violence - they said – leaves invisible and incalculable damage in the lives of those innocents who have no voice."

Fr. Firth has ended his speech by saying that their condition must be compensated by the State, as a matter of justice.
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