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As bodies wash ashore in Colombo, Tamil families of the disappeared fear for their loved ones

Following a recent spate of bodies being washed up on the Colombo shoreline, Tamil families of the disappeared raised concerns that their loved ones may be amongst the dead as they continue to demand answers for enforced disappearances.

Immanuel Uthyachandra, head of the Association of the Families of the Disappeared in the Mannar District, told reporters that “reports of corpses floating in the sea and streams” had raised doubts as to whether the Sri Lankan security forces were killing prisoners in their custody and dumping their bodies “because the issue of the missing persons is going to be taken up seriously”.

Detailing how Sri Lankan security forces have launched a crackdown to arrest activists who have been part of anti-government protests in the South and even those who were amongst thousands that entered the presidential residence earlier this year, Uthyachandra questioned why their loved ones had still not been located.

“When the Sri Lanka police can search and catch those who used the president’s chair or bathroom… why can’t they find our children who were forcefully disappeared?”

“We have formally lodged complaints at the respective police stations over the disappearances of our children and have wandered from pillar to post in search of our them for the last 13 to 14 years. Why can’t they arrest the perpetrators?”

“With this inaction by the police, we strongly feel that the police, in collusion with the government, are killing people.”

Uthyachandra also highlighted the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session in September, where Sri Lanka will be discussed and called for more concerted action from member states.

“The world must see our tears and sorrows,” she said as she spoke of the number of family members who had died searching for their children.

“139 mothers and relatives of the disappeared have died since their children disappeared. For every relative who dies, a valuable and useful witness gets eliminated. If we happen to die tomorrow, our testimonies will also perish untraceable.”

“That is what this government wants.”

Speaking on the length of their protests, she concluded that “when we say 2000th day, it is not simply words.”

“This struggle has been going on for six years,” she added.

“Considering our legitimate fight to know the truth, the international community must intervene to give a solution for our struggle we have forged ahead for 2000 days now. Unfortunately, so far, the international community has not given any decision other than the lip service.”

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