In an interview with Al Jazeera, former army commander and now minister, Sarath Fonseka, denies the enforced disappearance of hundreds of Tamils at the end of the war. He told Al Jazeera that such claims are “definitely an exaggerated story.”
In response to the correspondent’s questions regarding the whereabouts of Tamil surrendees, Fonseka stated:
“I don’t know. I can’t visualise how it could have been taking place. During the war and the last two weeks of the war, we had a very good system where we had made a beautiful arrangement with everybody coming and surrendering to security forces. I even went there personally. I am 100% sure. Incidents of this nature never took place […] Just because of some 10, 15 family members come and say that our children were taken… they have gone missing, you can’t take it as gospel truth or something.”
When further probed with the fact that the families of the disappeared are not merely 10-15, but in the hundreds, Fonseka responded saying “That is the reason why I’m ruling it out. You can’t do things like that, you know when there are thousands and thousands watching. It is not practically possible.”
However, Fonseka states that white van abductions were orchestrated under the command of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “I had very good tight control of the military. But there are other people like some in the police, some in intelligence agencies who prefer to please this man and join hands with him [Gotabaya Rajapaksa the previous defense secretary].”
Al Jazeera interviewed S Chelliah, who surrendered her son Nanthakumar at the end of the war at Vadduvakal Bridge, along with at least several hundred others.
“I was looking at my son, he was sitting by the bus window so I could see him. He was looking at me. He was crying. The soldiers took him saying that they will release him…they said they will release him in a month. They took him and went.”
Saliya Peiris, the chairman of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), commented on the prospects of the OMP. He stated that allegations would be made against the government and that he is confident that the authorities will be fully cooperative.
He further stated that, “One must understand the purpose of the Office of Missing Persons, it is not punitive. It is to find out what happened to persons. It is to trace people.”
The OMP begins collecting testimony and evidence for the first time today in Mannar.