Sons and daughters missing, missed, forgotten: LLRC’s failure in Sri Lanka

Tamil mothers, sisters, wives and daughters have not yet given up their hopes to find their disappeared sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. The tragedy of endless search continues for them.

Some Tamil women have more than one tragedy to digest. Vasanthathevi Kathirkamanathan is still searching for her missing daughter. And, her husband has been missing since May 2009. “I don’t know whether he is alive or dead. My relatives want me to believe that he was hit by a shell during the heavy fighting in May 2009, and died on the spot. But, he was with me till the last moment on 18th May 2009. If he was hit by a shell, and died on the spot, I must have seen his dead body. Since, I have not seen his dead body, I am unable to believe that he was killed. I strongly feel he was made to disappear. My life is in limbo” says tearful Vasanthathevi Kathirkamanathan from Ananthapuram, Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaithivu District. She leads her lonely life in a former war zone haunted day and night by the memories of her beloved husband and daughter.

My husband went missing when he was on his way to the paddy field in Vavuniya. Four youths wanted to see the paddy filed as it was a holiday. My husband took these four young men to the paddy field in 2007, and nobody has returned. I have searched for my husband everywhere, and I have not yet found him anywhere” ~ Thevakala Indrapalan from Vavuniya.

It’s shocking for many mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who have witnessed while their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers were being abducted right in front of them.

My son was abducted by armed men who came to our house on 11th of September 2008. I have visited all the detention centres in the country, and I have not been able to find him yet” ~ Uthayachandra Manuel from Mannar.

Most of the families have lost their main breadwinners after the men folk have gone missing for a longer period of time.

Devi Kanthasamy’s son was the only breadwinner to the family. “He was a lorry driver, and has been missing from Omanthai checkpoint since 2006

As Sri Lanka is going through post war period, many have forgotten about the disappeared persons.

My son went to the town to stitch a new pair of cloth to celebrate the Church feast. But, he never returned” ~ Bernabet Sandya from Mannar.

The cruel war in Sri Lanka has not spared women. It has made many Tamil women to go missing.

My daughter has passed the Year 5 scholarship exams, Year 9 Provincial level exams with colours. She wanted to be a teacher, and serve the community which is torn a part due to war” tearfully shares Puvaneswari Ramakili from Vidaththaltheevu in Mannar District.

Most these families have experienced war, lost lives and properties, and displaced more than once during their life time.

My son is a fisherman, and has been missing since 2008”~Sebamalai Sinnaththurai Perera.

A handful of individuals, and organizations are actively supporting the families of the disappeared to gather relevant documents, talk to them, file cases and mobilize. One such active clergyman is Reverend Fr.Emmanuel Sebamalai. “The Government has appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. How many recommendations have been fulfilled so far? No action has been taken against the enforced disappearances. No Special Commissioner has been appointed yet to investigate the alleged disappearances. The Governments has systematically prevented the families from the North, and not allowed them to travel to Colombo to participate in a mass protest, and hand over a petition to the United Nations Office in Colombo. Does this mean true reconciliation? These families of the disappeared need justice, and they strongly urge for accountability” states Reverend Fr.Emmanuel Sebamalai, Parish Priest of Thaazhvuppaadu in Mannar District.

Many of these women have multiple stories to share. They continue to bear the pain, and immediately pour their hearts out with a person whom they trust, and who speaks the same language. Several of these women, whom I have been in touch for many years, continue their hopeful journey praying a miracle would make their missing loved ones to return home sooner than later.

It’s noteworthy, although the Lessons Learnt and reconciliation Commission (LLRC) states the following recommendations, nothing has been fulfilled so far.

9.48 states:

Direct law enforcement authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that allegations of abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearances, and arbitrary detention are properly investigated into, and perpetrators brought to justice.

9.51 States:

Appoint a Special Commissioner of Investigation to investigate alleged disappearances and provide material to the Attorney General to initiate criminal proceedings as appropriate. Provide the Office of the Commissioner with experienced investigators to collect and process information.

Devise a centralized system of data collection at the national level, integrating all information with regard to missing persons.

9.59 States:

Frame domestic legislation to specifically criminalize enforced or involuntary disappearances.

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This article is part of an initiative to document and share the progress of the Sri Lanka government’s official reconciliation process. If you are interested in finding out more about the implementation progress of the LLRC recommendations, please visit Vimansa, a website independent of Groundviews.

  • Jon

    Has this group been formed just as an outlet for the Eelam Tigers, a terrorist organisation proscribed everywhere?

    I have no wish to be part of any group promoting such ambitions.

    Your terrorist ambitions were soundly trounced 4 years ago but you’re clearly determined to keep the seeds of anger and resentment alive.

    Try putting your efforts into nation building instead of collecting weapons and inculcating young suicide bombers to destroy lives.

    • Gautama

      There’s no hope for this country as long as heartless cruel racists like you live. Your only reason for not taking any action is the fact that the victims were Tamils. Open up all your secret camps and show those you are still keeping. At least the rest will close the chapters and move on.

      • Jon

        Good old ‘racism’ always gets run out when someone either doesn’t understand the topic or is at a loss to tackle an issue sensibly. Sorry, I’m not a ‘racist’, that label would be more accurately applied to your social system and caste rankings in the sub-continent.

        • Burning_Issue

          “Sorry, I’m not a ‘racist’, that label would be more accurately applied to your social system and caste rankings in the sub-continent.”

          I suppose if you can repeat this about 10 times you can convince yourself that you are not a racist!

          How do you propose that the people who seek their loved ones ask questions? Do you think that they should forget about it? If not, how do you propose they should go about it?

          • Off the Cuff

            Dear Burning Issue,

            You say “How do you propose that the people who seek their loved ones ask questions? Do you think that they should forget about it? If not, how do you propose they should go about it?”

            Truthfully would be nice.

            This article is not about the truth but a malicious attempt at slinging mud at Sri Lanka and inciting Tamil sentiment. Could you prove that the “Evidence” presented has any merit and supports the writer’s theme?

    • Ray

      Rajapaksa’s supporters and his troops kill children and rape women.
      I believe Jon and his Lankan government’s supporters love these kind of activities.

      • Jon

        From my understanding of the Eelam rebellion, atrocities were committed on both sides. War is like that!
        I well recall the assassination, by suicide bomber, of Rajiv Ghandi, probably the first example of a suicide bomber using the belt tactic.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai, Gautama and Ray,

    The timing of the spate of articles on Human Rights, the war and the LLRC, coming on the heels of the impending vote on the US sponsored resolution at the UNHRC, casts doubts as to the intent of the writers’.

    Some like the so called “Tamil Civil Society” a group of 98, led by Rev Ryappu Joseph, a prominent LTTE sympathiser, has been spreading Lies to deceive Foreigners and incite the Tamil polity.

    The JVP claims 70,000 of their members and sympathisers have been killed in the two uprisings which is higher than the 30 year Eelam war yet those mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have suffered a similar fate, are forgotten. It can be claimed that that is because they are just Sinhalese.

    The JVP terrorised the Sri Lankan public. The LTTE did the same. The victims during the JVP war were mainly Sinhalese. The victims during the LTTE war were mainly Tamils. The Sinhala public has been exposed to a double whammy. The victims of the LTTE were mainly Sinhalese. The victims of the JVP were also mainly Sinhalese.

    Hence I believe Gautama’s outburst is driven by emotion and that of Ray, driven by what Jon has identified as “…keep the seeds of anger and resentment alive”

    Let’s take the case of Ms Vasanthathevi Kathirkamanathan.
    She does not say anything about seeing the abduction of her husband and she claims she was with him till the 18 May 2009. No evidence about Govt forces being involved. No evidence of the LTTE being involved. Yet the writer insinuates and places responsibility at the feet of the Govt Forces. She does not speak a word about how her daughter went missing. We do not know whether she was an LTTE member and died during the war. Yet the writer insinuates that the Govt forces are responsible.

    Let’s look at Ms Thevakala Indrapalan’s story.
    We know that civilians had been attacked by the LTTE while they were farming and gathering firewood. The sluice-gates of Mavil Aru was closed by the LTTE on July 26, 2006. This prompted the launch of Operation Watershed which secured the reservoir on August 11, 2006. Hence 2007 was a war year. Ms Thevakala does not accuse the Govt Forces and neither does she accuse the LTTE. Yet the writer finds it fit to place the responsibility at the govts feet!

    The only story that has merit and has a possibility of Army responsibility is that of Ms. Devi Kanthasamy, as her claim involves the Omanthai check point. But here too we are not made aware of whether her son drove a lorry in to LTTE controlled area or went to the LTTE area on foot. We do not know whether he went missing after crossing in to LTTE territory or before.

    This is how the war was fought by the LTTE.
    Abductions were the norm.
    Killing of civilians were the norm.
    Assassinations were the norm.

    Listen to what these people have to say.

    Parish priest of the St Agnes Church Mankulam Fr James Paththinadan
    Velaudan – resident of Mulativu, Father of Niruba
    Niruba a 15 year old Tamil female child
    Madavaraja – President Vallipunam Regional Development Society
    Sinnayya Sivaneshan a Tamil youth
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpPBJr4Pq5A&list=UUHLitxsriMl-jcpvUYtV2Xw&index=0&feature=plcp

    Javier Aguilar – UNICEF minute 3:26 onwards (from the BBC Hard talk program) says 8000 children were saved (some as young as 9 years). He says that number is just the tip of the iceberg. During the last 6 months LTTE forced at least 200 children a month in to it’s war effort. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gXbFPoDWSI

  • Ron

    In any war there are actions which cannot be describes as humane. Take a look at Guantanamo after the 9/11 attacks.
    Asking what happened for the missing from the US or any other party is not going to get what is missing. think about it – it’s gone forever.
    Justice requirement for what went wrong is another subject.
    When there is no support or weaker organizations tend the use the humans to gain coverage.
    For example why there is always a child in a milk powder advertisement. That’s because to fix or plant a seed in a brain they need to match the way the majority thinks.
    For me US a politically driven organization with weak links for execution. They should explain the truth to the people who seek their missing.

  • PeaceAll

    Dear Dushiyanthini/Groundviews,

    First, thank you for the brave Journalism because we all know what happened to even a Sinhala Journalist who tried to bring Truth. And recently Frederica Jansz.

    Second, I sincerely hope Spirituality brings Truth & Justice so that the citizens in Sri lanka can live in Peace.

    It is an irony that some people like to keep on using their internal negativity/hatred to pit the Sinhalese against the Tamils or vice versa.

    Do you know of any Web site/source there is some info about the missing/dead? One related I found was Frances Harrison’s: http://www.stillcountingthedead.com/wp/

    Thank you.

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear PeaceAll and Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai,

      What is brave about writing to the gallery and inciting and inflaming emotion? I have indicated my concerns to the writer and is awaiting her response. Let’s hope she will.

      Could you point out any substance in the evidence presented that supports the theme of the writer?

      I am reproducing below (verbatim) the evidence presented, minus the emotive decorations added by the writer. Could you logically show how the govt can be accused on the presented evidence (as the writer has done), when we know that the LTTE was abducting men women and children for it’s war effort? With over 200 child abductions alone per month in the last few months! (please see my earlier post for evidence).

      What exactly is the writer’s objective? Separatist Propaganda?


      Vasanthathevi Kathirkamanathan Ananthapuram, Puthukkudiyiruppu in Mullaithivu District
      “I don’t know whether he is alive or dead. My relatives want me to believe that he was hit by a shell during the heavy fighting in May 2009, and died on the spot. But, he was with me till the last moment on 18th May 2009. If he was hit by a shell, and died on the spot, I must have seen his dead body. Since, I have not seen his dead body, I am unable to believe that he was killed. I strongly feel he was made to disappear. My life is in limbo”

      Thevakala Indrapalan from Vavuniya.
      “My husband went missing when he was on his way to the paddy field in Vavuniya. Four youths wanted to see the paddy filed as it was a holiday. My husband took these four young men to the paddy field in 2007, and nobody has returned. I have searched for my husband everywhere, and I have not yet found him anywhere”

      Uthayachandra Manuel from Mannar
      “My son was abducted by armed men who came to our house on 11th of September 2008. I have visited all the detention centres in the country, and I have not been able to find him yet”.

      Devi Kanthasamy on her son
      “He was a lorry driver, and has been missing from Omanthai checkpoint since 2006”

      Bernabet Sandya from Mannar.
      “My son went to the town to stitch a new pair of cloth to celebrate the Church feast. But, he never returned”.

      Puvaneswari Ramakili from Vidaththaltheevu in Mannar District
      “My daughter has passed the Year 5 scholarship exams, Year 9 Provincial level exams with colours. She wanted to be a teacher, and serve the community which is torn a part due to war”

      Sebamalai Sinnaththurai Perera
      “My son is a fisherman, and has been missing since 2008”.

  • Jon

    What alarms us Aussies is not what is upsetting the defeated Tamils in SL, but the boatloads of illegal Tamil hopefuls flooding our shores, carrying their resentments and ambitions for a resurgence of the fight.
    Australia is going to become a training ground for young Tigers carrying a chip on both shoulders.
    We’ve been there before with the Ustashi Croatian Nazi rump from post WW2, and the angry young Moslems we currently entertain who return to radicalised Islamic countries to receive training in terrorism. Now we’re seeing the same phenomenon beginning with the Tamils. Without all the money repatriated from Tamil communtieis in the UK, Canada and Australia, there would never have been a war in SL in the first place.
    Keep your anger at home and leave the rest of the world out of it!

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai,

    You have not been able to show that your article is based on fact and not fiction.

    I addressed 2 posts to you on 03/19/2013 • 3:14 am and 03/20/2013 • 12:22 pm. Are you able to refute what I have stated?

  • kichchi

    It is a waste of time trying to convince persons who are not prepared to accept the sayings presented and consider to investigate about its merits and come to a conclusion. They are afraid to face the FULL truth and are after HALF truths.

    The TRUTH of one of the statements by the First President Jayawardene (JR) that the Sinhalese will support him as long as he starves the Tamils cannot be challenged by anyone including those who advised the Public Servants to “follow JR and not AR or FR”. And now there are persons who say “follow MR and forget about HR or FR”.

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear Kitchichi,

      The so called “Facts” presented have been challenged two months ago. The writer of the article has not been able to answer the challenge as what has been written is more fiction than fact.

      No one (other than the brainwashed), is going to accept fiction as fact unless it can be proved. That’s why witnesses are cross examined in a court of law.

      It is a waste of time trying to establish Fiction as Fact.

      The writer has failed to prove these so called “facts”, can you prove them?