President Sirisena promises families of the disappeared that lists of forcibly disappeared will be released
12 Jun 2017
On Monday, in a meeting in Jaffna, President Maithripala Sirisena promised families of the disappeared that he would issue directives to the National Security Council the following day to release lists of surrendees, detainees, and political prisoners that families were demanding. The meeting between representatives of families of the disappeared from across all eight districts of the North-East and President Sirisena was arranged as a result of demands by the families at demonstrations on the 100th day of their Kilinochchi protest on May 30.
Also in attendance at the meeting representing the government were: Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, D.M. Swaminathan, Minister of Health, Rajitha Seniratne, Northern Province Minister of Health Sathyalingam, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, and the SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake.
The representatives of the families of the disappeared were accompanied by a few Tamil civil society activists.
During the meeting, families started by setting out their objectives and the history of their struggle, and then raised the issue of releasing the lists of those surrendered and detained during and after the war, as well as lists of political prisoners and secret detention centres. Families handed over a memo (click here) laying out 5 key demands which included: (1) releasing a list of all those who surrendered or were detained by the Sri Lankan armed forces during and after the war, particularly during the last phase; (2) releasing a list of all secret detention centres, their status and list of detainees; (3) releasing a list of all detainees held under the PTA and detainees held in detention centres; (4) releasing these lists to representatives from the families of the disappeared; and (5) releasing in public all reports by commissions appointed over the years to address the issue of disappearances and the Government’s response to those reports.
President Sirisena told families that he could deliver on all of the demands in the petition, and specifically told families that he would issue directives to the National Security Council at a meeting on Tuesday June 13 to release all the lists the families demanded. The President noted that parliament was going to debate the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) on June 22 but told families he wouldn’t wait for the OMP to act.
On the point about secret detention centres though the President insisted that none existed, and told families that if they believed they did he would take them in his presidential vehicle to show them they did not exist.
Families of the disappeared told Tamil Guardian that they will watch closely to see what happens at the National Security Council meeting on Tuesday, and that they will not give up their protests until they get actual answers.
Families of the disappeared across the North-East have now been protesting roadside across the North-East for over 4 months.
Below are testimonies from families that have been rallying in Killinochchi.
Name(s): Jegatharaparathavan, Yuvaneswaran, Kuganesan
Date of Disappearance: 2008, 2007, 2009
“My son dropped me at the check point and was returning back to Vavuniya… they captured him somewhere at that point. He never made it back to where he was staying… He was good, didn’t cause any troubles, he took care of the home, his wife and kids… he bought things for his wife’s pregnancy and told me to give it to her and take care of her… Not just one or two but three of my children are missing.”
Name(s): Sujeepan Kandasamy
Date of Disappearance: 2009
“He was taken by the LTTE when he was 17… then he was taken by the army in 2009. He kept to himself, kept out of trouble…often when he’s home you couldn’t even tell he was there. When I saw him last, he ate the food I took and he said take everyone and you all get out… I will somehow come out too.”
Name(s): Ratheeswaran Thevendran
Date of Disappearance: 2008
“He was injured and the army took him to the hospital… the man that was beside him in the hospital said that he doesn’t know where my son was taken after. Then someone we knew inside Magazine Prison said that my son’s name and information was registered there. By the time my son-in-law reached Magazine, they said he was no longer there… Then when they were releasing some of the cadres after rehabilitation one of them said that my son was kept with them but would not tell us where because he was afraid.”