Find our loved ones – People urge TNA
BY Mirudhula Thambiah
A statement made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at a Thai Pongal event in Jaffna recently, seems to have enraged the relatives and friends of missing persons, and motivated them to agitate more towards pressurizing the government to find their loved ones.
The Prime Minister said the majority of the missing persons should be considered deceased.
There was widespread condemnation of the remark by the relatives, and they turned their anger towards the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which received the majority of the Tamil votes in the North and East in the elections that brought the present government to power.
They demanded that the TNA should take the responsibility to check the veracity of the Prime Minister’s statement. They also asserted that the TNA should clearly state their stance on the status of the missing persons; whether they are dead or still alive.
An organization comprising relatives and friends of the missing persons on Wednesday (20) issued a warning to the TNA that they would lay siege to the political offices of the Alliance in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, if they failed to clarify their stance on the status of the missing persons.
Vavuniya District leader of the organization, Kasipillai Jeyavanitha (47), urged all the relatives and friends of the missing persons to support their undertaking and take part in the siege. However, she failed to specify a date on which the siege would take place.
She also invited all civil organizations and human rights activists to join in their struggle.
“During the Pongal event in Jaffna, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the majority of the missing persons should be considered as deceased. He made this comment in the presence of some TNA parliamentarians. If so, were our children detained at secret camps? Who detained them? Who killed them? Will they punish the killers? We know who is responsible for our woes. Thus we decided to lay siege to the TNA offices demanding the Alliance to declare their stance on the status of the missing persons,” she said.
Demo in Kilinochchi
On Thursday (21) a group of relatives and friends of missing persons headed by Jeyavanitha, staged a demonstration outside the venue where the TNA was having its special party meeting in Kilinochchi. The protesters alleged that their children, who went missing, were seen in photographs and posters. They questioned as to how they could be termed as deceased? If their loved ones are not alive, the government should submit evidence to prove their claim and identify the killers.
Jeyavanitha said during the protest “We voted for the TNA believing in their promises. But, why do they remain silent about the issue of missing persons? They visit our homes more than 10 times a day during election times to beg for votes. What have they achieved on our behalf? We have seen our children in posters and pictures after they went missing. We saw them recently too. If so, how can the Prime Minister say they are dead? We need proof that they are dead.”
Unlike other TNA meetings, there were a number of police personnel deployed to provide security for the Kilinochchi meeting that day. The protesters were not allowed to enter the meeting venue.
Jeyavanitha claimed that some of the protesters fainted during the agitation, and a prominent TNA MP in Kilinochchi ordered the nearby shops not to distribute water.
However, Provincial Councillor Ananthi Sasitharan, who walked out of the meeting, witnessed the situation and distributed water to the protesters. She also condemned the comment made by the Prime Minister. Then she mentioned that her husband is also one of the missing persons. Provincial Councillor M.K. Sivajilingam and MP Sivaskathy Ananthan requested the protesters to enter the premises where the meeting was taking place.
The relatives and friends met TNA Leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, and urged that his party should soon announce its stance on the status of the missing persons. They also demanded that if the Prime Minister’s claims are accurate, then evidence of such claims should be produced.
Sampanthan replied that the issue shall be raised in Parliament soon and that will lead the government to prove their claim.
However, the protesters seemed dissatisfied with that response. They told Ceylon Today that the TNA leader’s response was not promising. “Sampanthan asked us to forward a list of names of missing persons and details to him through the Trincomalee District leader of our organization, Asha. He was not ready to listen to me or my colleagues. Our grievances were heard in a rush, and he seemed commanding us. We do not feel satisfied. If he fails to speak in Parliament, we shall definitely carry out our threat to lay siege to the party offices in every district of the two provinces,” she warned.
Meanwhile, Jeyavanitha said her missing daughter, Kasippillai Jeyaromi, was seen in posters of President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day programme. She believes her daughter was seen wearing a school uniform, although she was not able to recognize the school.
“I rushed to the authorities and begged them to find my daughter. She is alive. I saw her in early 2015 on that poster. How can she be dead? Most of those who are protesting with me have seen their children somewhere after they went missing,” she said.
“My daughter was 16 years old when she was taken by unidentified men who were in Army uniforms. She screamed and yelled when they dragged her to a pick-up vehicle. They beat me up while taking her. I fainted. By the time I woke up, the vehicle had gone far, and I could hear the girls in that vehicle shouting in fear. I don’t know if my daughter was actually taken by the Army or some other unidentified group. It was the last phase of war in 2009. We were moving towards Puthumattalan and then Irattaivaikkal. My daughter was taken by force by these men who were in uniform,” she said.
“I saw my daughter in a poster recently. She is still alive. Not only my daughter, but many others, who went missing, should be alive. I beg all of them to find our loved ones. We miss them! We love them! I plead with the government to take necessary action as soon as possible. Dear President and Prime Minister, please do not ignore our request,” she urged.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the actual fate of the missing persons will be investigated, and steps will be taken soon.
The Presidential Commission to Inquire into Missing Persons has already issued death certificates to some of the persons who have gone missing, on the request of the relatives. Yet, a majority of them refuse to obtain such certificates, believing that their loved ones are still alive!