Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

7 years of continuous protest and still no justice - Tamil families of the disappeared rally in Kilinochchi

Tamil families of the disappeared in Kilinochchi are marking seven years of continuous roadside protests, as they demand to know the whereabouts of their forcibly disappeared family members.

The families rallied through Kilinochchi this morning and reached Kilinochchi Kandaswamy Kovil, where their first protest began back in February 2017.

As they marched through the town, relatives of the disappeared waved black flags and held photographs of their loved ones, most of whom were forcibly disappeared by Sri Lanka's security forces or government back paramilitary forces. 

"Where? Where? Where are our relatives?" the families chanted as they demonstrated today. 


Speaking to the press, Secretary of the North-East Relatives of the Missing Persons Association, Leeladevi Anandarajah,  said:

"Today marks 2557 days of protest. We first started our protest in Kilinochchi outside the Kandaswamy on February 2017. This encouraged protests in other districts.”

“At the start of this protest, we were demanding to know the fate of our relatives that were handed over to the Sri Lankan government and who have been kidnapped and to seek justice for this.”

“After 100 days of protest, we met with then President Maithripala Sirisena. However, nothing came of this meeting or the two meetings that followed. Time and again, Tamils have been betrayed by the state. As we have been betrayed by Sri Lanka, we decided seek justice and accountability from the international community.”

Despite pledges to the international community to provide truth and justice to the families, the Sri Lankan government have failed to address their grievances. 

Since becoming president in 2022, Ranil Wickremesinghe has not engaged with the families of the disappeared. Wickremesinghe and his government have established a Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation without engaging with the families who have been demanding justice since the armed conflict came to a bloody end.

Wickremesinghe claims that the new commission will investigate human rights abuses and disappearances perpetrated during the armed conflict but Tamil families of the disappeared and victim survivors have expressed their lack of faith in this and other domestic mechanisms such as the Office of Missing Persons. 

In October 2022, Tamil Guardian spoke with Leeladevi and Thambirasa Selvarani, the President of the Amparai District Missing Persons' Association at the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Leeladevi and Selvarani told Tamil Guardian that when Wickremesinghe was running for election in 2015, he visited Kilinochchi and met with the families of the disappeared. They said:

"He [Wickremesinghe] said 'if you all help me win, I will find your children for you.' Some of the mothers fell at his feet and started wailing, begging him to find them their children. However, soon after his recent victory, and after a day of celebrating Thai Pongal, he said that no one is missing and that they have all died. We don’t believe that Ranil Wickremesinghe, who said that on a day that is so auspicious to Tamils, that he will help us find our children. We have years of experience. We know how he acts. We know the ways in which he acts like a slow poison. Because of that, we do not expect that he will provide us with any resolution."

Since the families of the disappeared began their campaign for justice in 2017, over 160 parents have passed away without knowing the truth about their forcibly disappeared loved ones. 

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.