The Search Continues
By Waruni Karunarathne
Last Friday, a set of women made another tour to Colombo to meet former President Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga to request her support in the process of seeking justice on those missing. Rajany Chandrasegaram on behalf of the Women’s Action Network representing the affected women told The Sunday Leader that they have been providing various support to affected families under a referral system in Jaffna. “I have been working with 49 families – women headed families and families who need support in terms of livelihood, counselling etc. We also provide guidance when dealing with legal matters. We direct them through the proper channels,” she said.
According to Chandrasegaram, there are times that women cannot go to police and lodge a complaint about their issue due to language barriers and in that case she helps the police with translations. She said in terms of the cases of disappeared, it is important that the government comes forward to solve this issue.
“These people have been in search of their loved ones for a real long period. It is important that they get to know where they are and what happened to them. What these people want is a closure. They cannot go searching forever,” she added.The search of the families for their loved ones who had gone missing or forcefully disappeared has not yet come to an end. Many members of their families have been in and out to Colombo from the North and East to meet government officials, ministers and top level personnel in hope that they would help their cause and provide them with some answers.
Several women came to Colombo last Friday representing families of disappeared in several districts including Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee and Batticaloa to meet Former Presidnet Kumaratunga. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Sathiyoga Tresamma, a mother who lost her son said that her son Sathiyogu Jude Colin surrendered to the army in May, 2009 in Madhu Shrine. “Father Desmond Kulas, a parish priest from St. Lowrence’s Church also confirmed this incident. He had seen my son who was taken away by two army officers at Pandivirichchan. I have letter evidence to prove this,” she stated. She said that since then she had been in search of him everywhere however has not received any information.
Nishanthini Starlin Georg told The Sunday Leader that her father Meria Soosai Starlin George was a fisherman and he had gone missing with four others during one of their fishing trips. According to her, all five of them were taken into the LTTE custody on 16/03/2008. When her mother went to meet LTTE to inquire about the incident, the LTTE had informed that her father will be released after one year. “During the last phase of the war, we had no way of searching for him but soon after the war was over we received a message from a patient admitted to the hospital in Mannar asking my mother to visit him. When my mother went to meet this patient, he informed her that he too was under LTTE arrest and at one point before he was released he met my father. And he said that my father too was going to be released. After that my mother went to army camps carrying a picture of him and at Omanthai some people said that they had seen someone like that but was not sure when and where they saw him. But then we were sure he was still alive,” she added. Since then they have not heard anything from anybody about him. According to her, she and her mother had been inquiring about her father ever since and lodged complaint with the police, Presidential Secretariat, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and all the other relevant authorities. “When we went to the Lessons Learnt and Recommendation Commission (LLRC), what they wanted to know was whether we have received any compensation and Samurdhi benefit. Our purpose was not to get compensation but to find my father or to know what happened to him,” Nishanthini added.
Amalaraj Amalanayaki , a wife of another missing said that her husband was 47 years old when he was taken away while he was working in his farm land in Marapalam in Batticaloa. “The people who worked in the field said that he was taken away by two STF officers named Nandana and Thennakoon. His motorbike was also taken away and my husband also had some money on him. When I inquired about my husband from the camp, they denied abducting him. I lodged a complaint with the Military Headquarters but when called upon the witnesses they refused to give evidence as they were threatened by the STF not to do so,” she alleged. She had also lodged complaints with the police, but the police had failed to take appropriate actions. She also added that even though she mentioned the names of those who abducted her husband, the police had noted that it was done by unidentified persons. “I clearly mentioned that the date of abduction was 19.02.2009 but in the police complaint they have mentioned it as 29.02.2009. It was in February and there was no 29th. By doing that they simply wanted to make my complaint invalid,” she alleged. She added that what she is now looking for is some answers as to where her husband is and what happened to him.
K. Pushpakala claimed that her brother, Kathihesa Kuganathan was just 16 years old when he was arrested by the military on 21.07.1996. “He was going to the Chavakacheri hospital with my mother’s sister. On their way they had stopped at the market and that is where he was arrested. For two weeks we had been asking from the Chavakacheri camp as to what happened to him and finally they informed that he was transferred to a different camp. Then during the war our family was also displaced and we could not go looking for him. Then in 2002 I saw him at Udumbirai junction in Jaffna and he was fully dressed in black in a military vehicle – but since then there was no news from him,” she said.
Balasubramaniyam Varadhalakshmi told The Sunday Leader that her sons had gone missing and she has not been able to find whereabouts. “In 2004, Balasubramaniyam Mayuran went to do farming in Vanni and in 2006, Balasubramaniyam Darshan was taken by the LTTE to work as a carpenter. Then we heard from a relative in Vanni saying that they were safe in Vanni – but since military captured the area in 2009, there has not been any news from them,” she added. This issue about the disappeared has been dragging for so long. During previous regime, many families were afraid to come out to inquire about their loved ones who had gone missing and now it is up to the new government to take meaningful measures to reveal as to where these people are and what has happened to them without keeping these families in dark.