By S. Jayanth
Ten years after the end of the communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse has admitted that more than 20,000 missing persons during and after the war are “actually dead.” He was speaking to the UN Resident Coordinator Hanna Singer for Sri Lanka at the Presidential Secretariat on January 17.
It is an extraordinary admission. For years calls by family members for information about their missing relatives have been all but ignored. No Sri Lanka official has previously acknowledged that the government and the military have known all along that the “missing” were dead. To do so would raise too many awkward questions about their deaths. Up until now, Rajapakse has denied that anyone was missing at all.
The obvious question is: How does Rajapakse know about the deaths of these persons? The answer is simple. He was defence secretary—the top post in the defence department—during the final brutal stages of the war against the LTTE. His brother was the executive president as well as defense minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.