Families of the disappeared have responded to the offensive statement offered by Sri Lankan Minister, Wimal Weerawansa, by continuing protests, which have now exceeded 1100 days, and by demanding to know what happened to their relatives who were handed to the military.
Minister Wimal Weerawansa, following the lead of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has claimed that the tens of thousands of civilians who had disappeared at the end of the war are in fact dead. He further stated that this was solely the fault of the LTTE and he denied allegations over the role Rajapaksa's took in these disappearances.
Ms Mariyasuresh Eswari, Coordinator of the Families of the disappeared in Mullaitivu, has responded by condemning the insensitivity of the comments, which have caused great emotional pain and trauma to the families of the disappeared, as well as demanding to know the fate of those taken away by the Sri Lankan government. The protests in Mullaitivu have exceeded 1100 days during which at least 53 family members across the North and East have died pursuing the truth of what happened to their loved ones.
Eswari told reporters that whilst the minister claims;
“If the disappeared are wanted they should be dug out from the ground. We protest asking for those who we have handed over to the government.”
"We are asking for those who have been abducted in white vans in government-controlled areas and those who were handed over to the Army in Omanthai and Vadduvakkal"
The Woman’s Action Network (WAN), which is comprised of nine women’s group working across the North and East, have recently released a statement drawing similar questions on the role of the army in which they state;
‘On May 18 2009, thousands surrendered with Rev. Fr. Francis Joseph to now-Army-Commander Shavendra Silva’s 58th Division […] If those missing are dead, how did they die or who killed them? Where are their remains? How long has the truth been silenced?’
With respects to the comment Ms Mariyasuresh Eswari further called on all political figures to stop making such comments, stating;
"We vehemently condemn the minister's such comments.”
"Sri Lankan officials have shown no respect or regard for the mental breakdowns that such comments can lead to”.
"The current government acts in a way so as to kill each of us by words, even if they are not killing us with weapons”
“Parents are dying daily due to the stress of such comments. We demand that we receive a good answer without killing us with such comments.
Commenting on the change of administration, Eswari notes that;
“whilst the president in the last government dragged out [the issue] and completed his governance, the present government is taking steps toward killing us gradually"
She concluded maintaining that;
"There are no solutions for (our) children who were handed over to (the army) with their relatives. They need answers. We will continue to fight as long as we are not given answers to our children"