Human Rights

Man disappeared in Jaffna as police blocks families of disappeared to rally in Colombo

A 39-year old man in the war-torn northern Jaffna peninsula has gone missing from March 3, as the Sri Lankan police blocked dozens of buses carrying hundreds of Tamil families of the disappeared people, to stage a protest rally in the heart of the Colombo.

An official source from the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in Jaffna told the JDS via phone that P. Rajendran, a father of three, has gone missing from Sunday afternoon in Kalviyankadu in Jaffna.

“According to his family members, Rajendran, who was once kidnapped by men in white van, but was released later in 2006, has not returned after he left home in the afternoon hours of March 3,” the HRC source said.

Buses stopped in Vavuniya

Meanwhile, Mano Ganeshan, leader of Democratic People’s Front and Convener of the Civil Monitoring Commission, said that the Sri Lankan police acting on the instructions of the country’s defence authorities, has stopped at least 12 buses carrying about 1000 family members and relatives of the disappeared persons in the Jaffna peninsula.

“Today, we organised a peaceful rally at the Viharamaha Devi Park opposite the statue of the Lord Buddha, demanding the government, the President and the Defence Secretary to reveal the whereabouts of hundreds of Tamil youths and men, who have gone missing for many months and years. But the police in Vavuniya closed the A9 main highway and stopped these innocent people from further travelling. This is totally unacceptable,” Human Rights activist Mano Ganeshan told JDS from Colombo.

“The government, which is saying that they have united the country, defeated terrorism and moving towards reconciliation, has divided the country beyond Vavuniya by stopping the Tamil people from entering the capital city for the peaceful rally demanding justice,” he said, adding that the actions of the government highlighted the fact that it does not take the pressure from the international community seriously.

Police Chief lies

According to Mano Ganeshan, the traumatised people stranded in Vavuniya have now launched a protest opposite the District Secretariat in Vavuniya at a no-option situation and handed over a memorandum to the Vavuniya District Secretary.

“The bus convoy was stopped using a huge military vehicle. When I contacted the regional Police Chief in this regard, he said that these people were stopped at Vavuniya for their own safety, after receiving reports that these buses were to be stoned along the highway in Madawachchiya and Anuradhapura,” he said.

“This is an absolute lie. If the Police Chief has prior information about the buses were to be attacked, why he couldn’t give protection to the buses and ensure safe passage. The police is there to protect the people and not to break coconuts,” the fire-brand politicians said, adding that the government simply did not want these people to highlight their plight in Colombo at a time when the UNHRC sessions are underway in Geneva.

However, a group of Tamils who have got their loved ones disappeared but living in and around Colombo has taken part in the rally at the park.

“If the government has stopped these people from travelling to Colombo due to fear of bad publicity, the issue has inadvertently received a wider publicity now,” he said.

Govt. backed protest

Meanwhile, a government backed protest organized by the 'Dead and Missing Person's Parents Front' was staged in front of the UN office in Colombo. The protestors 'handed over a letter to the UN office requesting the UNHRC to account for their loved ones.'

"This is a demonstration of only a fraction of the reality of terrorism that we defeated in Sri Lanka" said the Army spokesman, Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya, in an email to the media.

"This list does not contain tens of thousands of Navy, Air Force, Police, Civil Security Department persons and most importantly the civilians killed. If a complete list were to be provided to the UN this association of the parents of the missing persons would have had to hire an 18 wheeler truck" he said.

US express concerns

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo on Wednesday has also issued a statement expressing concerns “about reports that hundreds of Sri Lankan family members of the disappeared were blocked in Vavuniya by Sri Lankan authorities." 

“These family members are calling for information about their missing loved ones.  The Embassy calls upon Sri Lankan authorities to allow free movement of these citizens. The right to freely express opinions is universal and protected under Sri Lankan and international law,” the statement said.

© JDS

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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