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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008

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Government Gazette

"I will continue to help as long as I can" - Mrs. Kusum Wickramanayake

By Shanika Sriyananda

[email protected]

It was at midnight that a 'mother' reached a house in a remote village in search of a 'daughter'. Her desire to trace the 'daughter' was shattered as she had already left that house as she could not tolerate ill-treatment any more.


Mrs. Kusum Wickramanayake with the mothers of fallen war heroes

Without knowing her whereabouts she left the home determined to find the 'daughter'.

Her staff kept on dialling the number that was given by a close relative of the 'daughter'. Fortunately, one fine day a male answered the phone and told her where the 'daughter' was. The mother detected the daughter and the story ended happily making the 'daughter' a recipient of the country's first ever project to make them financially stable to look after their own affairs.

The 'mother' in this story is Mrs. Kusum Wickramanayake, the wife of the Prime Minister and the 'daughter' is a mother of a fallen hero.

"The mothers of war heroes are suffering in the hands of cruel daughters-in-law. After a few months of the death of the soldiers, the doors of their own houses are shut to them. With no means of earning a living they were depended on whatever earnings that were sent by their soldier sons. But when they died the daughters in law ill treat them", Mrs. Wickramanayake said.

Listening to hundreds of similar stories, Mrs. Wickramanayake too suffered with them as she could not help them. Apart from these pathetic stories, a letter written with trembling handwriting motivated her to embark on a journey which would turn a new leaf in the history of the country.

The day her husband was sworn in as the Prime Minister of this country, the plea of that old mother reverberated in her ears. " I do not have a place to go. If my son is alive this would not have happened to me. Please help me to live". This gave birth to a project called 'Virumawa Surakimu Sathkaraya'.

Mrs. Wickramanayake had become a mother to over 100 mothers whose sons have sacrificed their young lives to protect the country from the LTTE terrorists last year.

Celebrating its second session, another batch of 200 mothers will be awarded certificates of financial assistance on May 13.

"No one knew what was happening at home after the death of a married soldier. The government compensated only the immediate family and the parents were left aside. No consideration was given to them. After getting the compensation, the daughters-in-law had asked them to leave the house. If not they will be ill treated until they leave the house", she said.

According to Mrs. Wickramanayake, in many families the daughters-in-law have brought their mothers home. "I do not say all of them are the same but a majority of them treated their mothers-in-law badly. How cruel they are, some had not handed the letters that we had sent to them asking to come to receive the financial support", she said.

Having started without a cent from the government, the state banks and philanthropists had helped to make her dream come true. Each mother will receive Rs. 1,000 monthly under this program for a year. Now those who wish to start self employment will be assisted further.

"This time we will give 200 sawing machines to each of them to start self employment because the financial assistance under this project is only for one year.", Mrs. Wickramanayake said.

A special badge with their picture and the logo of the 'Virumawa Surakimu Sathkaraya' have been given to these mothers and those who do not have NICs can produce the badge at the bank to draw the money.

" The other benefit of the badge is these mothers will be given priority when they go to any government institutions", she said. Can a mother stop grievening for a lost son? No. A mother is a mother for life. She will be there in the ups and downs of lives. She will moan for him until her death. According to Mrs. Wickramanayake, wants these mothers to realise that it is time to look after themselves and they cannot cry throughout their lives.

"I want to shed some rays of light to their lives. I want to end them suffering in their own houses simply as they do not have money", she said.

According to statistics, there are over 22,000 mothers whose sons died during the war.

But only 650 were registered and Mrs. Wickramanayake has become a 'mother' for over 300 mothers now. She has plans for 2009 too and a well wisher has already come forward to help another 100 mothers.

"I will be the happiest woman on this earth. I did not think that this would be successful. I always wanted the government to recognise the value of these mothers who are as brave as their sons. If these mothers were scared they would not send their sons to the battle fields.

Now the President Mahinda Rajapaksa has obtained Cabinet approval to pay 25 percent of the compensation of each fallen soldier to his parents", she said.

Mrs. Wickramanayake, who is determined to continue her endeavour further said that now the lives of these mothers would not be an agony as there is some kind of continuous financial assistance from the state for them.

The only wealth of these mothers, who 'donated' sons to fight for the country, are the pictures of the brave soldiers clad in army uniforms.

They are the most forgotten people within their own family and also society.

"I will continue to help them as long as I can", this is the wish of this mother who has become a light to the lives of over 300 mothers.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas
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