Born in 1979 to a poor Tamil farming family, Para was barely five years old when civil war erupted in Sri Lanka.
Nearly three decades later it ended in appalling horror and bloodshed.
Tens of thousands of innocent civilians died. Survival required courage, ingenuity – and the kindness of strangers.
‘You may find us just a little humble and matter of fact in our discussions on this event. Whilst saving life at sea is a legal obligation on a Master, we learn at an early age to respect the sea itself … we look out for and look after each other regardless of our origins, faith or beliefs. It is what we do. We go about it daily and without accolade, and neither do we seek it.
We were lucky to be passing near the casualty at the time of the distress and proud to be able to contribute significantly in the search and rescue activities supported by the Australian authorities. It is even more pleasing to have been kept informed of the progress of recovery, and the re-uniting of Para and his family as they start their new journey and life together as Australian citizens.’
‘This is Para’s story of survival against all odds. Para Paheer’s lived experience combines conflict, suffering, courage, tragedy, compassion, and hope. It depicts events that are predatory and abominable, even as it celebrates the humane and good. It must be read, precisely because it is heart-wrenching; because the discomfort it elicits may goad us to abandon apathy, embrace sympathy, and thereby discover our common humanity.’Professor Neil DeVotta, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, USA