In Mullaitivu, Families of the Disappeared gathered for the 1,906 day of protest and to mark the death of one of their members, Mary Fatima Pushparāni Arulanantham.
Pushparāni was a native of Vadamarachchi East & former president of Jaffna District Missing Persons Association. For the past 13 years, she searched for her son after having lost another to the war. She passed away at Chavakachcheri base hospital. At least 115 demonstrators have died without knowing the truth behind their loved ones’ disappearances.
“Will we get justice before we die?” asked one demonstrator.
The demonstrations were held in front of the Mullaitivu District Secretariat at 2.30 pm today. A number of investigators were also present, following a deepening trend of intimidation and harassment.
Adayaalam Centre for Police Research (ACPR) has reported that during protests intelligence agents would approach demonstrators and demand personal details after displaying photos of them or revealing that their names are known to the department. They have threatened that their involvement in the protests will make them targets of the state.
A former protest leader was informed by members of their community that they were visited by intelligence officers who questioned them about her family. The agents showed particular interest in the former leader’s daughter, who is currently a university student. The former leader was warned that future involvement in events relating to the disappearances would put her daughter in danger.
“I see all of these as attempts to weaken us psychologically, so we step away from the protests and make it easy for them to make up false stories about disappearances. If we ever stop doing this, they will just tell everyone everything is fine, and no one disappeared, and we will never find our families or justice. Taking pictures of us at protests, meetings and public gatherings has never stopped but singling out people and posing challenges psychologically has been happening a lot to many of our members recently” a member of the protest movement told researchers at the ACPR.
During the protest, Families of the Disappeared slammed the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) as a theatre, expressing deep distrust towards domestic-led mechanisms and demanding international accountability.
“What have the compromises with the military achieved” asked a demonstrator.
“The culture of impunity continues in Sri Lanka”.
“We only expect international accountability and justice, justice for genocide is necessary”.
During the demonstrations, protesters held up banners reading “we want an international tribunal”.