“We came to get collective justice for thousands of our people who have gone missing, not only for our sake,” said one family member.
The representatives that attended the meeting in Colombo were family members of the disappeared that ended a four-day hunger strike once given assurance by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he would meet them with the Attorney General to help find the thousands missing.
“For many problems they [the government] are just asking for more time. That minister, when I gave him the petition, said we would get a very good outcome on the 9th. He made us believe that. But today he has betrayed us,” one of the mother’s of the disappeared said.
State Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena flew to the north to meet those in the hunger strike and further reassured the government’s position in writing.
However, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General were not in attendance at the meeting and ministers and the police chief met the group instead.
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians were compelled to leave the meeting as per a request by the families. The representative wanted to discuss a solution without the involvement of politicians, said TNA parliamentarian Selvam Adaikkalanathan.
MP Sumanthiran commented stating that, “I heard after the meeting that they got the government to agree to prioritise their 15 cases when the OMP is set up, ahead of all the other cases…if there was going to be a prioritisation of cases to be investigated by the OMP, that would have to be based on some criteria.”
In contrast, family members told a press conference that there concerns were not just about their 14-15 cases, but they were fighting for the widespread problems of disappearances and ongoing detainment of political prisoners.
“Our demand is that justice must be served for the over 32,000 people who were forcibly disappeared in Sri Lanka. There must be accountability. We are not putting our 14 families forward to ask for justice for our 14 families. We made this very clear,” said one of the protesters at a press conference. “Despite this they [the government] said that would be very difficult and would take a long time. They said they would set up a special inquiry with the police chief.”
“Today we are illustrating that there are some things this government will not give us. You know that for the past 7 years we had given the responsibility of taking forward the issue of political prisoners and enforced disappearances to the Tamil National Alliance. This is the first time that people from a civil society group had the opportunity to speak to them [the government]. During this one meeting alone we saw the government’s real face. We will not obtain justice or the truth from them – whether its the former government, the present government or the future government.”
Another protester said:
“When we said we did not want him [Sumanthiran] there, he made some comments before leaving. He said that he had met with the government 50 times to discuss the issue of missing persons. We met with the government for just one time and we say this government will not give us anything. Therefore let the public decide what he discussed when he met the government 50 times.”
One of the mother’s of the disappeared explained, “when we came here to Temple Trees we were shocked to see Sumanthiran there. Our demand was that no politicians should be come here.”