“I knew Lucky from Sri Lanka. We played football together. He was an excellent player. Then our lives were destroyed by the war. After we fled to Hong Kong I cannot say that it was easy for him. Lucky was friends with everyone, but smiling doesn’t mean you don’t have HELL inside.” This poignant remark from an old friend captured the spirit of the funeral service for refugee Sivarajah Sivatharan.
Fu Shan Public Mortuary is nestled in the green hills of Tai Wai, a peaceful location grounded in nature and connected to eternity though the smoke that rises unworried to the sky every fifteen minutes. Almost a hundred friends joined Lucky’s brother Sivaharan, who flew in from the United Kingdom, to bid a sorrowful farewell to a refugee who found misery, not protection in our inhospitable city.
The ceremony was attended by NGO workers and priests who work closely with the community. The general discussion was that life remained miserable; those stranded here for over a decade lamented the lack of progress. A veteran refugee remarked, “Nothing has changed. It is years that I am waiting and nothing good happens. When I arrived my son was one year old. Now he is 12 and he refuses to talk to me on Skype because he doesn’t know me. It breaks my heart!”
The Srilankan refugee community is quietly stoic and confidently brave. Everyone saw death in the face and overcame unspeakable horrors before seeking sanctuary in Hong Kong. The government understands it and the majority of substantiated torture claimants are Eelam Tamil, a minority ethnic group that suffered tremendously through a 26-year civil war and its fearful repercussions.
Lucky’s mourners questioned the circumstances and the responsible those who for years approved his home in a dangerous tin shed: the fixer who rented huts on property he did not own (Land Dept source); ISS-HK who failed to safeguard Lucky’s wellbeing and entered problematic addresses in service agreements; SWD who turned a negligent blind eye to the slums until the fatality. The distraught grievers had nothing good to say about a welfare system that oppressed them.
The Refugee Union denounced those responsible in an earlier statement. “We condemn in the strongest terms possible the heinous act of allowing refugees live in squalid, hygienically unsafe and deadly trapping unauthorized structures … The death of our friend Lucky was as a result of impunity, negligence, malpractice and outright discrimination.” The Union is requesting a Corner’s Examination.
A Hindu priest presided over the cremation and guided Lucky’s composed brother through the rubrics of an ancient ceremony. Father Blaise subsequently intonated the Lord’s Prayer that was softly supplicated by mourners whose voices were drowned by sorrow. Finally, Sivaharan pressed a button and the coffin glided silently behind a purple curtain into consuming flames. Rest in Peace, Lucky!