of the disappeared
child holds a picture of a
missing loved one Photos
by Amantha Perera
First it was a
sob, then gradually a cry, then a wail,
and within five seconds it was a shriek
that ripped apart the Veeramylan Hall on
Sri Kathiresan Street, Pettah.
was among the thousands who had gone ‘missing’
in the last one and half years and his
mother could not hold her anguish
inside. Around her were hundreds of
others, some intently looking at the
stage, others looking at nowhere in
particular, empty eyed, some others
clutched photographs or extra large
cutouts handed out by the organisers and
haunted the gathering organised by the
Civil Monitoring Commission, part of a
series of such meetings islandwide. At a
time when the government is more
concerned of deflecting bad press from
the Amnesty International sponsored
public advocacy campaign, the shrill of
the mothers’ voices simply told the
tale of helplessness.
The CMC had
invited Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe to the meeting. He
pledged his party’s support to find
the missing, but his pledge had come
after thousands had gone missing.
appealed to everyone — the police, the
government, the NGOs, everyone, no one
knows anything," Manivaran’s
brother, Chandramohan said.
The fear was
palpable, it hung like a dark ghost over
the dimly lit hall. One young lady
distributed pictures of a holy sage in
India. On the flip side of the picture
was a manthra, "please keep
saying it, my father will then come
back," she said. "Put it in
the paper, then everyone will see
it," she pleaded. The girl would
not give her name, through fear.
want him back, we don’t want any more
trouble, but we want him back,"
They talk of
white vans coming and taking their loved
ones away. Pradeepan ‘disappeared’
just five days before the CMC meeting. A
white van came and took him away, his
father-in-law K Pakiyanadan said. He is
23, his wife is four months pregnant.
"We want him back, why should my
daughter give birth to a child like
this, who is responsible?"
On the stage
speaker after speaker pledged to join
the fight to search for the disappeared.
"If local means are not enough, we
will have to enlist the support of
Wickremesinghe said. Minutes before a
woman had walked up to the stage and
began beating her chest.
of the missing are not too interested in
the debate on the participation of
international human rights monitors.
After months of seeking redress where
nothing has been forthcoming, they too
now feel that international intervention
may be inevitable.
international community should bring
pressure, nothing gets done here without
international involvement," Tambiah
Sivaraja whose son Haran went missing
last April in Jaffna observed.
That is not
what the government thinks, it feels
that the newly established Special
Presidential Commission of Inquiry would
do the job. But those searching for the
missing are not so sure — "what
has it done up to now," Sivaraja
For the record
the commission would have to seek two
new members to fill the vacancies left
by the two who resigned citing personal
watchdogs share the same sentiment. The
UN Human Rights Council has been arguing
for the induction of international human
rights monitors for almost a year now.
Others have called for witness
International called on the President of
Sri Lanka to add independent, impartial
and competent international experts to
the proposed Commission of Inquiry (CoI)
and take other steps to ensure
consultation with civil society in
developing its work, access to relevant
materials and persons, protection of
witnesses appearing before it and that
the CoI’s recommendations are
carefully considered with a view to
their full implementation.
believes that unless these requirements
are met the CoI would not be able to
function as an investigative body that
would address violations of
international law in a meaningful way,
as required by international
standards," Amnesty International
said just four days before the CMC
as has been of others is that the mess
is too large for the country to handle
and too late for local remedies. They
also feel that past experience in the
country has not brought any satisfactory
justice to the victims.
of monitoring would be to address all
serious violations of human rights,
including extrajudicial executions and
enforced disappearances, and all
breaches of international humanitarian
law whether committed by government
forces, the LTTE, the Karuna group, or
any other armed group or individuals
operating on their behalf. Monitoring
would consist of documenting and
investigating the increasing number of
abuses committed by the Sri Lankan
security forces, LTTE and other armed
groups; publicising their findings and
identifying the perpetrators so they can
be brought to justice," AI said.
alarm is sounding for Sri Lanka. It is
on the brink of a crisis of major
proportions. The practice, however,
sometimes appears to be one of an alarm
followed by silence, followed by
disaster. The problem, of course, is
when the alarm sounds. Governments and
others can opt to simply put in their
ear plugs, hope for the best, and
express surprise when disaster
strikes," Philip Alston, UN
Secretary General’s Special Rapporteur
on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
executions warned last October.
For the time
being, the government says that the
Presidential Commission of Inquiry with
its international advisory panel is more
than enough. It is more bent on knocking
out AI from its current campaign.
disappeared the future looks gloomy,
"I want my son back,"
Manivaran’s mother cried holding on to
his picture, his brother tried but could
not hold back the streaming tears,
around them hundreds of others cried.
But no one was listening, the tears of
the disappeared were left to dry on
their own cheeks.
traditional New Year approaches an
uneasy calm has descended. Since the
April 7 claymore attack on a bus at
Pariayalankulam on the Mannar-Vavuniya
Road, the north east has remained
relatively clam, if the intermittent
shell fire exchanged along the forward
defence lines in the north and east are
discounted. By mid week fighting north
of Vavuniya had claimed the lives of
more than 30 combatants.
In the east
where fighting and attacks left more
than 30 civilians killed in the last
fortnight, hardly any similar attacks
were reported after the devastating
Ampara bus bomb. The government and the
Tigers appear to have again returned to
the cat and mouse game of long range
fire. A 12 hour artillery duel was
fought by the two sides on April 10 near
exchanged heavy fire near the Black
Bridge crossover point. The Tigers said
that they had again prevented troops
from breaking out of their defences and
advance along the A5. On an earlier
occasion also, on March 21 the Tigers
attacked five camps in the area to
prevent government forces from moving
troops have gained large stretches of
land from Rukam to Pillumalai, on the
south western side of the highway, that
were formerly under the Tigers. "We
are consolidating our positions,"
Military Spokesperson Brig. Prasad
succeed in breaking through from the
Black Bride side, the Tigers would face
severe logistical difficulties.
By April 11 the
military said that the full length of
the highway had fallen under its
command. The Tigers did not elaborate
but said that some parts had fallen.
military is in control of some
parts," Tiger military spokesperson
Rasiah Ilanthirayan said.
Most of the
activity was near the FDL, especially at
Omanthai north of Vavuniya and Muhamalai,
south of Jaffna. Shell fire and
artillery fire had been reported near
the FDL in the last few weeks
On April, 10
the Omanthai crossover point was closed
once again due to fighting. The military
said that it was due to Tiger shell fire
that left one soldier dead and three
Tigers said that heavy confrontations
had erupted at Palamuttai west of
Omanthai on April 10 evening.
"There is heavy fighting,"
been firing at troops and we have been
compelled to fire back," Brig.
The area saw
heavy fighting two weeks back as well
and according to truce monitors, the
casualty figures were as high as 60.
point has been closed on several
occasions in the past few weeks due to
the exchanges. March 23 was one such
occasion . The Tigers said that the
military had forayed into their areas
west of Omanthai and had in fact held
villagers as human shields. The military
reacted saying that the Tigers have been
firing at the armed forces from the
village. The monitors said that a large
number of troops had been involved.
were two SLA led offensives into LTTE
controlled areas in Wanni 25 kilometres
west of Vavuniya. The first reportedly
involved some 200 soldiers, the second
comprised of more than 1000 soldiers
according to the LTTE. The last
confrontation lasted more than 12 hours
and it is believed that more than 60
combatants died in the battle. The
intention (according to the Defence
Ministry) was to gain control over the
Madhu area. However ground positions
seem to have remained more or less the
same," the monitors said.
It is in the
same area that fighting was reported
last week as well. The military said
that an operation was launched to clear
the Madhu area of the Tigers who had
been harassing IDPs.
shell fire were also reported at
Muhamalai as well. "There were
large confrontations in and around the
Forward Defence Lines (FDL) in Jaffna
including the Jaffna lagoon area. The
situation however returned to the normal
disturbance fire," the SLMM said of
the last week of March.
It said that
shell fire had abated in the ensuing
days. The same pattern had been noticed
in Batticaloa as well, where shelling
from the government side fell after
troops were able to bring areas under
Tiger control under their command.
beginning of this week the tension in
Batticaloa was very high. Heavy and
almost non stop shelling was reported
from various STF camps in the district.
Due to this, schools were closed and the
general public was afraid. On March 28
the shelling abated from GOSL side after
SLA declared they had taken control of
the town of Kokkadicholai and
surrounding areas," the monitors
Center for National Security agreed with
the assessment and said that troops had
cleared the areas immediately west of
Batticaloa after the diplomats came
under shell fire on February 28.
both Omanthai and Muhamalai appear to be
peppered with shell fire from both
sides. On April 9, the military said
that the Tigers had increased fire at
reports also indicated that the air
force had increased air raids since the
attack on the Katunayake Air Base on
March 26. Two days later the air force
had carried out a night raid in
of 10 aerial attacks took place in Wanni
during last week. There are no reports
of any civilian casualties. Targets have
been LTTE military installations and
predominantly the Iranamadu Air Strip.
On March 28 at around 21.00 hrs the SLAF
dropped bombs north east of Kilinochchi,
showing for the first time their night
time attack capabilities. The LTTE on
the other hand reported that none of the
bombs hit the target which was the above
mentioned air strip," said the SLMM
Situation Report on the week that
followed the attack.
reported that there was one attack
carried out by a deep penetration team
of the military that killed two Tiger
cadres. The attack had taken place on
the A9 and just south of Kilinochchi
claymore blast took place in Wanni
allegedly by a SLA Deep Penetration
Unit. It detonated on the A9 road only
some 8 kms south of the Kilinochchi city
limits, which is the closest to
Kilinochchi itself since the signing of
the Cease Fire Agreement. Two LTTE
members got killed while one was