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Sri Lanka - what will happen when the monsoon comes?

Today is National Poetry Day in Britain. At Amnesty we recently received the very moving poem below from a Sri Lankan living in Canada who is trying to imagine what life in the detention camps in Sri Lanka must be like for a child.

This comes as we issue a new call on the Sri Lankan government to Unlock The Camps and stop holding Tamil civilians in the camps against their will. This is now urgent as the monsoon season is imminent and those camps are not fit to cope with the possible consequences of flooding and the accompanying humanitarian disaster that could result.

The Sri Lankan government is holding a quarter of a million displaced Tamils in de facto detention camps because it says it needs to screen people for Tamil Tiger members. However this process is being carried out with no international monitoring or transparency and has effectively lead to whole communities being imprisoned in camps that often lack basic sanitation or adequate food and water. Pregnant women are said to be giving birth in the camps without medical assistance or privacy. The government  persists in not allowing proper access to the media or to humanitarian agencies. What must all this be like for a child?

Bright red pottu
Every morning
Never missed.
The point of your finger
Right here between our eyebrows
For both of us.

Amma puts hers first
Then she puts mine.
Remember me insisting
Me first, me first!

That day Dad give me a biggest hug, squeezed so tight,
Lifted me so high, laughing so loud.
At midnight he went out of the bunker.
Amma must have known he wasn’t coming back
But still she smiled at me.

The day she went out of the bunker
Her pottu was still shining between her eyebrows.
Then her pottu went right into her head
And red blood came all down her calm, loving face.

Before then I only knew how to cry.
Then I knew how to shriek, to scream
Holding on to your body, Amma,


Here too our school is under the trees
But they don’t take the register.
I don’t mind, I’m used to it.
The only thing different is
There are no bunkers here.
Sometimes my heart beats so hard
It’s louder than the gunshots
And tears just shoot out when I think about you.

Please don’t ask me about pottu
If Amma can’t put it on me I don’t want it.
And please don’t teach us about parents,
I don’t want to hear about them.

It’s not only me; none of us want to hear it.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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