Andrew Loh / Deputy Editor
In a quiet little corner of Hong Lim Park on Saturday, two women sit silently. In their hearts were the victims of the on-going war in Sri Lanka.
As the sky threatens to open up and raindrops begin to fall, Madam Susila and Madam Annapoorani tell The Online Citizen (TOC) that they are observing a silent, non-violent demonstration.
“It’s a motherly feeling that we have towards the children of Sri Lanka whom we see on the news,” says Mdm Susila. “We are here to show our concern for the war there.” The two women decided to go to Speakers’ Corner because it broke their hearts to see the victims of the war on television and they wanted to do something. “My heart just can’t take it,” Mdm Susila says.
She is 66 years old and has three children. Her two daughters are in Malaysia and Canada. Her son in Singapore had earlier brought her to Hong Lim Park at 1pm and is very encouraging of her presence there today. “Singaporeans should help stop the war,” Mdm Susila urges. She has a special affinity with Sri Lankans as her cousin is married to a Sri Lankan woman who now lives in Singapore.
The two women at today’s demonstration have been friends for 48 years. Mdm Annapoorani, who is 75, tells TOC that her family of three boys and three girls has given her their “full support” for today’s event.
Accompanied by four friends, the women were undeterred as the rain got heavier at one point. They opened their umbrellas and continued to sit in quiet defiance. Mdm Susila suffers from asthma but she was determined to see through the six-hour protest, in spite of the weather. She and Mdm Annapoorani have been fasting since 7am.
Mr Thamizhmaraiyan, one of the friends of the women, told TOC that they had wanted to put an advertisement in the Tamil language newspaper, Tamil Mirasu. “We wanted to let people know about this protest and ask them to join us,” he said. But the newspaper rejected their advertisement. “We were willing to pay for the advertisement,” says Mr Thamizhmaraiyan, clearly disappointed.
However, he is not giving up and plans to hold another event next month to join in solidarity with those suffering in Sri Lanka. But it won’t be at today’s venue. “People are afraid of Speakers’ Corner,” he explains. Even for today’s event, they originally approached 10 people who were sympathetic to the cause but declined to participate when they heard the demonstration was going to be at Hong Lim Park.
Nonetheless, Mr Thamizhmaraiyan, who was the first Singaporean to conduct a fast at Hong Lim Park some weeks ago for Sri Lankan victims of the war, says he is hopeful that Singaporeans will join him at the next event, which he hopes to hold at a temple. Tentatively, he plans to have it on December 15.
When asked what they thought the Singapore Government should do about the war in Sri Lanka, the group had only one request. “We do not expect the Singapore Government to do much,” Mr Thamizhmaraiyan explained. “But they should at least say something about the situation.” Mdm Susila, who is an admirer of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, feels the same. “If MM Lee spoke up, the Sri Lankans might take heed,” she feels.
As the sky began to get dark, Mdm Susila and Mdm Annapoorani continue their protest, with their four friends close by.
Recalling the scenes from news reports, the two women desperately hope that the war will end soon.
“People dying and bodies are piling up everywhere,” Mdm Susila says of the situation in Sri Lanka. “Blood flowing like a river.”