To mark the 100th day since families of the disappeared began protesting in Kilinochchi, over 1000 families of the disappeared from across the North-East gathered to protest blocking the A9 road in Kilinochchi town for over 5 hours on Tuesday. Civil society, clergy and university students from across the North-East and the South joined in solidarity.
In addition to the overaching demand for answers about the whereabouts of their loved ones, families had two specific demands for the government: (i) release the name list of those forcibly disappeared; and (ii) release the name list of those being held in secret detention centres and permit families access to such centres.
Families of the disappeared had requested the government to attend the protest to receive a petition with their demands and negotiate an answer. In response, the Additional Government Agent (GA) attended the protest and accepted a letter outlining those demands from the protestors and delivered it to the GA’s office. After hours of protesting in the heat, the GA came back with an offer for some participants to meet with the Prime Minister’s office. However, this offer was quickly rejected as families stated, “what is the point of meeting with the Prime Minister when he’s the one who said all of our children are either dead or abroad?” Families instead insisted that they wanted to meet the President directly. The GA told protestors that he would have to go back to his office to see whether he could arrange this.
|Additional Government Agent (GA) accepting the letter stating demands of the protestors.|
At this point, the Kilinochchi Assistant Superintendent of Police facilitated a call between families of the disappeared and Northern Province Governor, Reginald Cooray. The Governor told families that he would set up a meeting with the President and would send written confirmation.
When no response from the GA came, and pending written confirmation from the Governor, families began marching to the Kilinochchi District Secretariat office. Before reaching the office protestors were given a letter from the Secretary of the Governor Northern Province. The letter stated that the President would appoint a committee for an inquiry into the grievances, as well as grant a meeting with the President – the date to be determined within the next two weeks. The families rejected the idea of yet another committee but agreed to having the meeting with the President set up within two weeks.
There was a heavy police presence throughout the day, with an official police photographer taking photos of all those gathered. At one point, when families began marching to the Kachcheri, police threatened to spray them with water if they did not turn back (see here).
While having decided to try and meet with the President to demands, families of the disappeared are determined not to allow promises without tangible actions to quell their demands. Families of the disappeared are clear that they will continue protests in Kilinochchi and across the North-East until they have real answers to where their children are.