Sri Lanka conflict: ‘Why can’t you find our sons?’ – About 20,000 Tamils, are thought to be missing.

Kandasamy Ponnamma is still haunted by the sight of her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren waving as they were taken away by Sri Lankan troops in May 2009.

Ms Ponnamma wept helplessly as the bus carried off her loved ones, soon after security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

She was among tens of thousands who had fled a tiny coastal strip near the north-eastern town of Mullaitivu, where the final stages of the 26-year conflict took place.

That was the last time she saw her relatives.

“The army promised a general amnesty to all those who had links with the Tamil rebels. That’s why my son and several others surrendered.

“I still don’t know where they are or what happened to them,” says Ms Ponnamma, who now lives with her husband near the northern town of Kilinochchi.

Shanmugampillai Sarojini has a similar story.

“When the civilians were leaving after the war, my son fell ill and fainted. He was taken in an ambulance and we were told that he was taken to a hospital in Kandy. We haven’t heard anything about him since then.”

Ms Ponnamma and Ms Sarojini are among thousands of Tamils whose loved ones disappeared in the conflict. The violence ended nearly 10 years ago but there has been little progress in tracing the missing.

The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people. It divided Sri Lanka along ethnic lines – pitting the majority Buddhist Sinhalese-dominated government against the rebels, who fought for a state for minority Tamils.

About 20,000 people, mostly Tamils, are thought to be missing.

Many people still hope their relatives are alive, languishing in detention centres or in secret prisons, a view rejected by the government.


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