Feature Article

Hope amid tragedy

[TamilNet, Saturday, 01 September 2007, 19:40 GMT]
Antony, a six year old boy lost his leg, his 4-year old brother Reginathan was killed, his mother and 6-month old brother were injured, and his father Jegan lost his leg during 02 January attack by Kfir fast attack aircrafts of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) at the coastal hamlet of Padakuththu’rai in Iluppaikadavai, Mannar town. Jegan lost four of his siblings. Amidst this tragedy, Antony showed remarkable resilience and a unique enthusiasm for his school work when TamilNet visited the family for an interview this week.

Padakuththu’rai victims
Jegan Antony, 6
"I perform everything faster than the other students and I have asked my mother to take me to school every day," a confident Antony told TamilNet. His mother Antonystella, 27, carries him to and from school, so that young Antony does not miss any day at school.

"My son takes pleasure in showing off his school books and describing what he learnt in school to every one who visits our house," the proud father told TamilNet.

Jegan family, originally from the fishing colony at the coastal village of Naavaanthu'rai in Jaffna, had undergone severe hardships during the past 12 years, even before the bombing tragedy struck the family.

"We were displaced from our residence in No.21, St .Mary’s Road, Naavaanthu'rai North, in 1995 when the Sri Lankan armed forces encircled Jaffna peninsula, and stayed in Naachchikudaa at the Church of Our Lady of Vea'laangka'n'ni for six months.

Padakuththu’rai victims
Antony’s father Jegan
"During the aerial bombing by the SLAF helicopters in the beach area close to the church, my father Antonipillai, 70, was killed. Fearing for our lives, we moved to a coastal hamlet in Vidaththaltheevu, Addaitheevu.

"Due to the SLA military offensives in 1998, we were again displaced and set up a temporary home in Iluppaikadavai. We suffered immensely after the move, and hardly received any relief assistance. We were struggling to have our most basic needs met," Jegan said.

“When Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) and peace pact was signed in 2000, we returned to Jaffna with our fishing gear, hoping to lead a peaceful life with our relatives. But we were disappointed. Continued restrictions on fishing restrictions during even the the period of peace prevented us from earning a decent living.

"The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) issued Grade “B” permits to those returning from Vanni while those who had lived continually in Jaffna received ‘A” Grade permits. Vanni returnees were subjected to severe interrogation by the armed forces. We were permitted to go fishing only three days a week.

"After three months in Jaffna we returned to Vanni and settled in Iluppaikadavai where I resumed fishing," Jegan said reflecting on his failed hopes to lead a settled life.

"On 2 January, I went for fishing as usual and after returning home was getting ready to have my breakfast, when I suddenly heard deafening noise from fast attack air crafts. We had not taken any safety measures to protect ourselves as we did not expect to be attacked.

"Fearing imminent bombing we ran outside and took shelter under a nearby tree. Meanwhile bombs started falling on the roof of our house and began exploding. One of the bombs fell 35 metres from our hut and exploded severely injuring my right leg. When I lifted my head, I saw my son Antony lying unconscious, with his right leg severed. This is the last I remember before I became unconscious," Jegan said recounting the events on the fateful day.

"When I regained my senses I found myself admitted for treatment at Ki'linochchi hospital.

Padakuththu’rai victims
Jegan Antony

"Until now, we have not received any form of compensation or relief for our losses. I lost my fishing nets worth Rs.48,000 and fishing boats worth Rs.60,000. In addition our house was completely destroyed during the aerial attack.

"I lost my son and four siblings, Regina, 36, Scholastica, 33, Shayaraja, 30 and Santhiapillai, 23, during the attack. Our entire generation has been completely wiped out.

“Without one of my legs, I am unable to go fishing and we are managing on our savings, the money earned during my healthier days,” the distraught Jegan said.

Padakuththu’rai victims
[L:R Antony's mother Antonystella, Jegan, Jegan Antony]

The injuries received by Jegan's wife Antonystella during the attack were fortunately not very serious. She said: ”Even my 6-month old Devinraj was injured. I don't know who I should shed tears for.

“We had been living with self respect but now every one is looking at us with pity. How can we bear this situation? We would have been happy if all of us had perished during the bombardment,” Antonystella said.

To ease the financial strain of the family, a Tamil Eelam Certificate deposit of Rs.100, 000 was handed over Tuesday at the child’s home in Kumizhamunai, Naachchikkudaa, Poonakari. The financial assistance for the child was provided from LTTE leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan’s Trust Fund.



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