The People of Katuwapitiya
“How do we send our children to school?”
In conversation with Nilanthi from Negombo, a Sinhalese, who speaks excellent Tamil. She has been a part of a fishing community in Katuwapitiya for generations.
The Catamaran recently spoke with Nilanthi (43) from Negombo. Even though she is Sinhalese, she speaks excellent Tamil and is part of a fishing community that has been in Katuwapitiya for generations. Her community are yet to recover from the trauma of the recent Easter Sunday bombing.
THE CATAMARAN: Has the situation improved after the April 21 incident in Kattuvapitti?
It is really scary. We are afraid to send our children to school. We’re afraid to go outside. We fear to go out after dark. When we do leave the house, anxiety shrouds us and we sometimes return home without fulfilling our needs. The school is said to have received a warning letter about a bomb blast in July and didn’t conduct lessons for three days. When the situation is like this, how do we send our children to school? We are more afraid than before. Even in times of war, we went on pilgrimages to the Madhu Temple. Now no one is willing to go. We don’t know whether it’s true or not, but we believe what is said in the media.
THE CATAMARAN: Aren’t measures in place to safeguard students in schools?
There is a policeman on guard. When we call the teacher we are told to assess the situation ourselves and send children to school; they don’t guarantee the safety of our children. When the men of our village go to sea for fishing they don’t return home for 3-4 days. Sometimes they take about 10 days to return. We have to look after the children. How can we send our children to school with this uncertainty?
THE CATAMARAN: All ethnic groups live in your village. How is your relationship with one another?
There are a few Tamil families and one or two Muslim families close to my house. The grocery stores are run by Muslims. We have contacts with them but no one talks to each other like we used to. We cannot blame the innocent for the actions of others. But they seem a little aloof now.
THE CATAMARAN: Was your family affected by the blasts?
Nothing happened to our family but we lost many neighbours. They are like family to us. We did not prepare our meals that day. We were running here and there on the road. We didn’t face this situation even during the war.
THE CATAMARAN: Have people started going to Christian church feast in the neighborhood?
All of us are panic stricken. The Scapular Feast is held in August in Mundal, Puttalam every year. Everyone from our village attends the ceremony. If our men are to join others in the family it will certainly be a Church feast. Getting together, cooking together and staying in a tent together are great experiences. But this year no one is going
THE CATAMARAN: What do you think should be done to create a more peaceful environment?
It is the responsibility of the government to create such an environment. We were living happily after the war for a while. Then suddenly this thunderstorm came. The people must be a little cautious. Parents must be vigilant about the activities of their children. Others in the family also must take care of those who are with extreme ideas. I too have three children. If they can lead a fearless, happy and free life tomorrow, that’s enough.