Image from The Anti-Torture Initiative

There is an alarming trend in the Sri Lankan security forces operation, of arresting the family members of suspects and keeping them as hostages in detention camps. Irrespective of their age, gender and connection to those suspects, the family members are kept under arrest/ detention most notably in the infamous 4th/ 2nd floors in Fort and in Boosa Detention camp under the control of TID. Presently there are several females in Boosa. Two of them are above the age of 60. Kanapathipillai Yogarani 61 years of age was arrested in latter part of March. The only allegation against her is that her son residing in a foreign country has been sending her money periodically.

Another lady Selvanayakam Rasamalar 62 years has been arrested in place of her son who is being wanted by security forces. Her maid /attendant by the name Puwanewary Kulasingam 52 years was also arrested with her. Selvanayagam Rasamalar’s son’s name is Kajeepan but the TID is compelling her to admit that her son’s name is Gopi which name is in the wanted list. However, the mother is emphatic that her son’s name is Kajeeban and not Gopi as claimed by TID. Her daughter- in- law Sharmila 26 years old is also kept as a hostage until her husband is arrested. Here again, Sharmila is certain that her husband is Kajeeban and not Gopi.

When Sharmila was arrested on 11.03.2014 at her Trincomalee home she was 4 months pregnant. She already had a delinquent child three and half year old. She was interrogated for almost day and night in TID office in Trincomalee and on 12th morning she was transported by train to Colombo with two plain clothed policemen and two WPC’s in uniform. She was thereafter   taken to the 4th floor and was there 2 nights. On the 2nd day she was taken to the top floor and was shown a window through which she was asked to look and was threatened that she will be pushed down if she didn’t cooperate. She was also taken to a room where about 8-10 men were kept. They had injuries in the face and limbs with blood stains all over the body.

Thereafter she was made to sign a statement written in Sinhala. She does not know a word of Sinhala but after being admonished that she will be pushed down from the multi storied building and having seen severely tortured men, Sharmila had no option but to sign the document. She had earlier signed statements in Trincomalee TID office under similar circumstances. On the 14th March 2014 she suffered an abortion and experienced severe pain and suffering. She did not receive any medical attention.  In spite of all this she was taken to Boosa the same afternoon by train and remanded at Boosa in the night. To this date no medical treatment has been given.

There is another lady Balendiran Jeyakumary who was arrested in Kilinochchi with her 13 years old daughter Vibushika. The daughter is now housed at a children home under the supervision of the Child Probation Department consequent to a Court order. Jeyakumary is held in Boosa detention centre purportedly under detention order. Interrogation still continues and she is continuously questioned about one Gopi whom she is alleged to have harbored in her house and who had escaped after shooting a police officer. Jeyakumary has consistently in maintained that the person who intruded into her house was a stranger and that the security personnel had every opportunity to apprehend him if they wanted to. Forces had surrounded her house and yet they had not apprehended the intruder nor is there any trace of the TID office who is supposed to have been injured by shooting.

There is another lady, Loganathan in Boosa whose husband is tortured in the 2nd / 4th floor in CID / TID controlled premises in Fort, Colombo.

There is a young woman Raveanthiran Vathani who is now a mental wreck who is not given the basic treatment for physical ailment let alone psychiatric care or counselling. This woman had lost her husband and family members her two children are in the care of relatives. She is in dire need of treatment by a psychiatrist as well as a physician both of which the authorities at the detention camp are unwilling to grant.

These women are held in inhuman conditions without the basic facilities and necessary accessories by the unsympathetic officials. The officials seem to be oblivious to the fact that their captives are human beings and are entitled to basic facilities and humane treatment. No sympathy could be expected from the authorities whose mindset is hard, inhuman, and cruel in the treatment of detainees.

There are nearly ten young men who were arrested from a bakery in Dehiwala. These men who are from K’nochchi, Vavuniya and Jaffna had been working mostly as helpers and labourers. They do not know the reason of their arrest and their family members who are dependent on their meagre earnings have to come a long distance for prison visits. These arrests seem revolve on the arrest of the owner whom the TID suspects of some activity concerning finances.

Still they are unable to come up with any reasonable cause for such arrest of the owner. The faint reason trotted up by TID that the owner has opened several branches of his bakery in Jaffna and in Colombo and how could he earn so much from a bakery business. Their ridiculous inference is that the capital to the business might have come from the diaspora. They forget the fact that fast food and bakery items are good source of income anywhere in the world. The arrest of the workers is for the ridiculous reason that these workers could be used in the networking with the diaspora in a future event and their arrest is therefore of preventive nature.

These are the only available details of detainees in Boosa. There have been a spate of arrests in K’nochchi following the arrest of Ruki Fernando, Fr. Praveen and Jayakumari and Vibushika.

Information from reliable sources and eye witnesses in Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu areas confirm the fact that there is heavy presence of military and intelligence units with who often enter residences of people on the pretext of obtaining information details, which operation is nothing but harassment of civilians in the area. Frequent cordon and search operations, checkpoints and arrests without reasonable suspicion are rife. And the ordinary life is seriously affected. Men and women who underwent rehabilitation are again directed to report to Army camps and police stations.

When there are visitors to a house, the head of the household has to report to the Grama Seveka and the A.G.A and take the visitors to such officials for registration. This situation is worse than that prevailed during war time and this has caused immense fear in the people and has virtually frozen HRDs and the civil society organizations.