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.
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.
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.
Frame domestic legislation to specifically criminalize enforced or involuntary disappearances.
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.