PrAbhakaran’s daughter born in N’eliya
By Prabath Attanayaka
The sun was scorching them. But the morning coldness had still not died down. The cold sunny morning makes one lazy. She was silent. She smiled as her nipples wetted with milk. She tried to imagine that her new born baby, Thilina Sandaruwan as named in the registry of birth, might have fallen asleep. She was trying to appease herself with that. She thought her environment was not suitable for a new born baby.
She walked in the Nuwara Eliya General Hospital and in the hospital quarters to relieve her breasts of the milk flowing for her child.
The baby was born on 22 July 1989 at 5:45 p.m. She was on maternity leave for three months. She was back in the hospital quarters. She knew that her son would be safe from the cold. She was happy back at work. The English architecture in the town surrounded by mountains was pleasing. The sun was hiding behind the mountains.
“At that time it was not like now. December was very cold. I had two elder sons when my younger son Thilina was born. My husband worked in the Army. The children were under my care. I took the service of a housemaid, a woman from an estate. The establishment regulations were not as strict as at the present time. I visited my son every three hours and fed him with milk. Most of our staff consisted of Tamils. The VOG was also a Tamil doctor. No one took inhuman decisions. They asked me to go home and come back. I could not take leave in such a humane situation. We committed ourselves to work. I learnt it that way from the Tamil members of the staff.
“As a midwife, I was in charge of the labour room. I could speak both Sinhala and Tamil. Most of the Tamil mothers could not speak Sinhala. When they are in pains, the language did not matter. The VOG performed caesarian operation rarely. Drugs are given to cause labour and the delivery is conducted normally.
“Estate women were very helpless. They worked hard in plantations and suffered from poverty and malnutrition. Sometimes mothers are admitted to delivery when they suffer from pains while plucking tea. We can’t blame them. They try to cover their work before admitting to hospital. Infant Mortality Rate was very high. We had nothing to do.”
The month of December was very cold. Dew drops fell. Occasionally a streak of lightning tore the sky apart. When the radio from Colombo was tuned, the news was about the civil war. The JVP rebels of South were attacking. There was the separatist war also though they appeared silent for the moment. They were being fed by India, as news spread. It was a transition period. The rebels were being hunted.
However, Nuwara Eliya was free from impacts of rebellions in both the North and the South. There were neither bomb explosions nor breach of civil law like collecting identity cards.
“We could understand through the media that troubles prevailed everywhere. My husband was a Muslim. He was a soldier who expected peace. But I understood he was hiding the truth from us. I had an understanding about both these rebel groups. Although I was born in Nuwara Eliya, my home town was Vavuniya. One of my brothers was an MP. I understood that the situation in Nuwara Eliya was an exception. But ordinary Tamils did not understand it. They knew neither Prabhakaran nor Wijeweera.
“In our ward, there was a doctor called Rathnasuriya who was keen on political affairs. We learnt many things from him. My elder son was in school then and the second was in the nursery. Our lands in Vavuniya had gone to jungle then due to the terrorist issue. We did not want to move out of Nuwara Eliya in this context.
“Work in the hospital was normal. Once, a woman who had been attacked by her husband with hot water came to the hospital. She had been burnt and was to deliver her baby after four months. We helped her a lot. We gave her clothes and money for medicine.
“Meanwhile, another woman who was in the hospital was sympathetic towards that woman. She was a middle class woman who dressed neatly. She wished good morning to everybody in the morning. It is normal now but not ordinary then in that context. She was quite strange. No one visited her. She had meals from the hospital. She had everything ready for the delivery. Normally, the women wore an old cloth which was brown or red in colour when they were ready to go to the labour room. She had one such cotton cloth as well.
“She was admitted on a Thursday. Doctors said she would deliver the baby on Saturday. On Friday, a stout man wearing spectacles came to visit her. He was wearing trousers and a shirt. He visited her in the morning, afternoon and evening. He brought a Murunga curry. The man did not speak but smiled with the people. He was extraordinary. We knew the ordinary middle class people of Nuwara Eliya. We did not know them. Although they behaved as ordinary people, they were mysterious. On Saturday morning, the woman had pains. I was the only midwife in the labour room. She was taken to the ward. The bed head ticket said she was Madiwadani and a resident from a village in Wanni. There was no mentioning about attending clinics. The weight was marked in unclear Tamil.
“She was patient. I asked which baby was it. She said it was the second and the first was a son. I crack jokes at patients because it relieves patients. The baby was born before 12 noon. I took the baby in my hand. Madiwadani helped me. I said it was a baby girl. She was happy. I was off duty in the evening. Sunday was my day off. On Monday, I reported to duty after 2 o’ clock. Madiwadani had been discharged then. It was normal. A patient was admitted and the delivery was carried out normally. That was all.
“A week or so passed. In the middle of a week, CID, Military Police and many other officers visited our hospital. They checked the list of the patients of the past two weeks. The doctor who was on duty by the time Madiwadani delivered the baby was a Tamil person. By then, he had been transferred to a hospital in the Wanni. I was the labour room midwife. They questioned me for two hours. They asked about the private details of the patient like birth marks etc. I did not know them. They wanted to know if I had scheduled my duty for that time. Even with modern facilities also we cannot predict the time of a delivery. I was distressed. I said my elder brother was an MP. After some time, the officers were friendly. They suspected Madiwadani was Prabhakaran’s wife and the visitor was Prabhakaran. The photos also matched the woman and his visitor. The officers drew some diagrams with the details I gave them.”
She had thus helped the wife of a terrorist leader who held the nation in terror for years to deliver a baby daughter. As she said Madiwadani was a pretty pregnant woman. Her daughter was taken by the hand of a woman registered as a Sinhalese. The baby daughter was later known as Dwaraka.
“No change took place finally son. Rebel Wijeweera was caught near Nuwara Eliya. Later Prabhakaran who lived with separatism was killed in Nandikadal. We lived in Nuwara Eliya with Tamils and we were afraid to tell this story to anyone. Now, I am afraid to tell this story because now I live with Sinhala people in Vavuniya. But it is the story,” she told me predicting it would be a valuable story for me.