The family members of Tamil political prisoners, some of whom have been detained for years, rallied in Mannar last week, as they demanded the Sri Lankan government abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and release their relatives.
"Since the war ended in 2009, we have been pushing the government to release political prisoners but they have provided us with no reassurance,” said one protestor.
The rally, which included men, women and the children of political prisoners, chanted slogans and carried placards which read, ”Release political prisoners without condition” and "Do political prisoners not deserve pardons?”.
The protesters, who assembled in front of the Mannar District Secretariat, highlighted in particular the difficulties faced by Tamil women, stating that they are both “politically and socially vulnerable.”
"Women's rights!,” said on placard. “Do the families of political prisoners not deserve this?”.
"I'm not only asking for my son, but I'm also speaking for all of the prisoners held,” said one woman, whose son was detained despite by Sri Lankan authorities.
"We women, are here to ask for the release of Political prisoners. Women in each household are struggling immensely without a male figure and no stable income," another woman said.
Chithra Ganesan was in tears as she described the impact on her family without their son, who has been imprisoned for 11 years. "We are struggling so much without him,” she sobbed. “He is also sick and his father has fallen sick constantly worrying about him.”
Several children were also present, calling for the release of their family members being held by Sri Lankan authorities. One such young girlm, Sangeetha, told reporters “My father has been imprisoned for 12 years”.
“My brother, mother and I are constantly in sorrow,’ she said. “I'm asking that you release him as soon as possible."