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Unprecedented in Contemporary History: Wedding Bells Ring for 106 Ex–LTTE Combatants at Pampemadu

NEVER before have Sri Lankans had the opportunity to witness a colourful mega-wedding ceremony of this magnitude, nor have we ever thought of this miraculous transformation to be a reality so soon within a spell of several months, since the late megalomaniac terror-monster, under the guise of the so-called “liberation” never wanted his northern youngsters or LTTE combatants and conscripts to wed without his diktats.

Under the new spirit of freedom, liberty and understanding granted to them by the Army, ‘Love Conquered Everything’ as the saying ‘Omnia Vincit Amor’ says after their surrender during the final humanitarian operations that brought about hope for life.     

The Army, which scuttled his vicious and divisive machinations, exactly 13 months ago, finally bringing permanent peace to the war-ravaged island, has once again proved that they are highly skilled and professional not only at warfare but also for post-war challenges in the multi-ethnic society of Sri Lanka.

Pampemadu Rehabilitation and Protective Accommodation Centre, Vavuniya wearing festive garbs on Sunday (13) morning was set to experience the mega-wedding of 53 brides and 53 bridegrooms, the biggest ever marriage ceremony, unprecedented in the contemporary history of Sri Lanka. Those former LTTE ‘brides’ and ‘grooms’ were in fact ‘fiancés and fiancées’ when they were hand in glove with the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit at one point of time. Unfortunately, their leader’s diktats barred them even from maintaining secret romantic relations during fighting and had no whatsoever permission even to suggest anything on the lines of an intended marriage. So they psychologically suffered but physically held the guns and explosives for their own survival. All the weddings were registered between 7.30-8.02 a.m. on Sunday (13) as advised by Hindu and Catholic religious leaders. 

The mammoth event was made a reality under the auspices of Ministry for Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms in co-ordination with the Bureau of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation. 

Time has swiftly changed for the better. Bureau of the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation evaluating  humanitarian needs of those 41 Tamil Hindu couples, 11 Tamil Roman Catholic couples and 1 Tamil Christian couple undergoing   rehabilitation in 13 island-wide rehabilitation centres after giving up LTTE violence, organized their long dreamt reunion as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in accordance with Hindu and Catholic traditions.

The mega -wedding arrangements, initiated and organized by Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe, Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, received an overwhelming support from the Hindu Congress, Council for National Unity and Oneness organization as the wedding itself needed valuable gold ornaments and elegantly decorated clothes for both men and women to suit Hindu traditions. 

The process for matrimonial preparations got underway as planned and the Bureau of Commissioner General for Rehabilitation got down red and white saris, kafnis (long shirts extending to the knees) with pijamos (leggings) or dhoti or turbans from India, along with henna or mehndi (hand and feet decorating stuff) for those couples, scheduled to tie nuptial knots on Sunday (13). The traditional golden necklace and Pottu, though excessively expensive posed no problem to the organizers.

More significantly, 53 new houses, close to the Pampemadu Rehabilitation Centre were erected in the separately blocked out ‘Sama Gama’ (Peace Village), so that the newly-wedded couples could complete their rehabilitation programme after their marriages.

Hindu and Catholic wedding rites and rituals were performed by fifteen Hindu priests and one Catholic priest on the occasion under a specially designed canopy, known as ‘Mandap’ in front of  which was the sacred fire, typical of Hindu marriages. As ‘Mangalashtak’ and Hindu vedic poems reverberated, priests continued their invocations during the auspicious hour as the bride and groom went on feeding each other sweets for four times.  Each couple received Rs 10,000 in cash as the wedding gift from the Oneness organization before new couples posed for their lifetime wedding photos, offered free of charge.

The atmosphere, filled with music and melodies, provided by Army band and rhythmic dances of the Army troupe, drew a huge gathering of relatives of those couples, visitors, invitees. The Army and the Sai Foundation jointly provided all sweet meats and the lunch for attendees as the formalities came to an end.

The mammoth arrangement was graced by Minister for Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms D E W Gunasekara as Chief Guest. Popular Indian Movie Star Vivek Oberoi in the company of Namal Rajapaksha MP was associated with the ceremony. Ministers Duglas Devananda, Rishard Baddudeen, Dilan Perera, Wijitha Wijeyamuni Soysa, Major General G A Chandrasiri (Retired) Governor for Northern Province,  Major General Daya Rathnayaka, Army Chief of Staff who was formerly the Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, Major General Kamal Gunaratne, Commander Security Forces  Wanni, Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe, Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, Mrs P S M Charles District Secretary for Vavuniya, State officials, close relatives, civilians and many other invitees witnessed this rare spectacle, perhaps once in lifetime.