Solidarity with families of the disappeared in Colombo | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Solidarity with families of the disappeared in Colombo

As families of the disappeared in the North and the East mark 500 days of continuous protests, disappearances activists organized a sit-in to show solidarity last week.

For well over a year now, families of the disappeared in Kilinochchi, Maruthankerny, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Trincomalee have been demonstrating on the streets, in makeshift tents in order to demand answers about their loves ones.

international bodies and enquired with the armed forces. Out of alternatives, the families began a continuous protest.

Activists showing solidarity with Northern and Eastern families of the missing, also handed over a petition to President Maithripala Sirisena with their appeals. The activists are demanding that the Government release a list of those who surrendered to the military at the end of the war, a strong international presence in the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) which has just commenced work and a timeline for action by the Office. The activists also ask that action is taken against those who harass protestors in the North and East and that existing legal procedures such as Habeas Corpus cases are expedited. In their letter, the activists have attached the demands that were made by protestors in the North and East to President Sirisena in a meeting in July 2017.

Marisa De Silva, an activist based in Colombo explained the demands of the protesting families. “President Sirisena met with representatives from all five protesting sites”, she said “[He] made three promises to families, including that he would release the list of surrenders who had been handed over to the military following the end of the war in 2009.” But so far no promises have been kept. Referring to the disappearances of JVP insurgents in the 1970’s she noted that Sri Lanka has historically used this tactic. “Over the last three decades or so Tamils have become the victims” she explained. De Silva also commented on the need for a speedy solution. On February 12, 2009 Sundararaj Arulyananda’s husband Sinnawan Steven Sundararaj was abducted in a white van right in front of Town Hall.

Sundararaj was aProgramme Manager at Center for Human Rights Development (CHRD). His wife explains that her husband was previously arrested under the PTA and released following a fundamental rights application she filed.

It was after his release that he was abducted. Ever since the incident Mrs. Sundararaj has joined the CHRD and has been agitating for the families of the disappeared both locally and internationally.

Executive Director of the National Peace Council, Jehan Perera explained the psychological impact of the governments failure. “Unless the government tells them that they are no longer living, the people will always have some hope that the missing person is somewhere”, he said “this represents the agony and sorrow of these parents.”

Dr. Perera also touched on the issue of those who surrendered at the end of the war. He explained that many of the people at the sit in today have seen their loved ones surrender to the military, yet have received no information on their fate even though the war ended nine years ago. Unlike Mrs. Sundararaj, Dr Perera commended the action the government was taking in this regard. He is hopeful that the OMP will bring some answers to the victims and protestors.

Abdul Jameena’s son, Mohommed Hakeem was abducted on March 21, 2009 in Mattakuliya. He was the father of two children. She pointed out that the truth really did lie with the government.

A decade since the war ended, most families of the disappeared remain in limbo, with no answers yet about the fate of their loved ones. In all this time, in no way has their pain diminished. The recent protests show that neither has their determination. 

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