Relatives unable to find group of Tamils arrested by Sri Lanka anti-terror police

Family members of at least sixteen young Tamil men in northern Sri Lanka are devastated after not being able to establish the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones arrested by the anti-terror police almost eight months ago.

Accusing the war affected Tamils of ‘trying to resurrect the Tamil Tigers,’ the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had arrested 30 youths from different locations and removed them from their neighbourhood.

The young men from Jaffna, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu who were summoned by the local police apparently for inquiries in June and July last year had been later taken to the TID office in Colombo. Sixteen of them remain incommunicado as fears looms over their safety, wellbeing and whereabouts.

This is the single largest group of Tamils taken into custody by the police and gone missing for such a long time after their arrest since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office in November 2019.

Police claim that explosives were seized with the arrests.

Braving weather conditions, the relatives are protesting in front of the Kanthaswamy Kovil in Killinochchi seeking their release. They are the latest group of Tamils to launch a continuous roadside protest in addition to families of the disappeared and victims of land grabbing. Their protest and plight first came to the notice of journalists travelling with the five-day P2P Tamil-Muslim march.

An acknowledgement slip issued to one arrested by the TID seen by JDS says that he has been detained for ’trying to help the LTTE’. The arrest was made after summoning to the Killinochchi police station. The ‘Receipt on Arrest’ lists Colombo as the ‘Court of Jurisdiction’.

Protesting from a makeshift shelter, family members say the charges against the young men are untrue and unsubstantiated. The families say they were not allowed to contact their relatives in custody. Even after 8 months those detained are yet to be charged.

“How can help be offered to a non-existent LTTE” read one banner displayed at the protest site.

‘Fighting for justice’

Kosaladevi Selvanayaki, mother of Selvanayakam Sasikaran is worried of her son catching the deadly pandemic that has been spreading through prisons.

“Government says LTTE has been annihilated, so how could my son help resurrect them? These children are innocent, and we are fighting for justice. We understand our son has Covid-19 infection; we are even denied the opportunity to talk to him”.

Speaking to journalists covering the P2P rally Kosaladevi says her son was just asked to come for an inquiry.

“He went to the Police Station for an inquiry. He was asked whether he will come for a small inquiry and he said yes. Then he was arrested and detained in the TID office. When I asked what crime was committed by my son, they said, 'your son has not done any crime, it’s just an inquiry and we will release him in a day”.

According to her, they kept him in detention for 27 days in Killinochchi and then taken to Vavuniya. He was detained there for another 30 days before being transferred to Colombo saying the inquiry will be held there.

“Even a simple request to talk to him for two minutes was denied- and only when out of anguish I said will immolate myself, they gave me a number to call him and that number also went unanswered.”

Sasikaran’s wife who was also at the protest says her new-born child is yet to see the father.

‘Torture inevitable’

Family members say that many of the those who used to protest have withdrawn out of fear after being threatened by intelligence officials.

The families of Lingeswaran Inparaj, Selvanayakam Sasitharan, Kanthasamy Yuvan, Kunalingam Vasanthan, Ramesh Sujanthan, Anton Charles Pavihtran, Sabaratnam Thuyavan, Uthayasorooban Umasuthan, Thevaranjan Mathivathan, Balasubramaniam Kajitharupan, Ratnasingam Kamalakaran, Ratnabalasingam Eelaventhan, Srivasaka Sarma, Kajenthiraraja Inthirarasa fear for their health and safety amidst fears of Corona virus Pandemic.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Police spokesperson has threatened protestors with arrest.

“If the mothers and children who are protesting in Killinochi revolt against the government, try to form a separate state, they would be arrested,” Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana was quoted in the Colombo press.

“They were arrested as they were trying to resurrect the LTTE and explosives and detonators were seized from them. The allegation that they were arrested without a reason is totally untrue”, he said.

The TID is feared for torturing detainees and questions directed to the government on its tainted role by the UN are yet to be answered.

In 2016, Sri Lanka suffered unprecedented humiliation when the country’s intelligence chief Sisira Mendis sat through a UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) probe without responding to a series of crucial questions about torturing war affected Tamils by two police agencies - TID and CID - under his administration.

Thousands of Tamil people have gone missing during the final phase of the brutally ended Civil war nearly 12 years ago or immediately after the victory claimed by the government following surrender to the security forces.

“The missing persons are actually dead” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the UN’s chief representative in Colombo a year ago.

The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) formed by an act of the Parliament in 2016 is yet to find a single missing person.

Frustrated with the failure of ‘domestic mechanisms’ families at the protest site in Kilinochchi are demanding that international community should render justice.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.