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Fears grow that Tamils arrested last year may be forcibly disappeared

The families of at least sixteen Tamil men that were arrested last year have expressed fears about their whereabouts and safety, after being unable to locate them following their arrest by Sri Lanka’s Terror Investigation Division (TID).

The men were all detained by Sri Lankan authorities in June and July of 2020, several months after Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office as president. At least thirty Tamils from Jaffna, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu were taken to the TID office in Colombo, but the whereabouts of sixteen of those young men remain unknown.

“This is the single largest group of Tamils taken into custody by the police and gone missing... since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa assumed office in November 2019,” reports JDS Lanka.

The families of the now missing men have joined protests in Kilinochchi, calling on Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that they are safe. Many fear that the state may forcibly disappear them, as it has done so to thousands of other Tamils.

"I fear for my son's life" - Kosaladevi Selvanayaki from JDSLanka on Vimeo.

An acknowledgement slip issued to one of the young men’s families claims that they were arrested for attempting to assist the LTTE. Sri Lankan police also claim that explosives were seized with the arrests.

Amongst those arrested is Selvanayakam Sasikaran, whose mother Kosaladevi continues to maintain a vigil at the protest site in Kilinochchi.

“He went to the Police Station for an inquiry,” she said, recalling his arrest. “He was asked whether he will come for a small inquiry and he said yes. Then he was arrested and detained in the TID office. When I asked what crime was committed by my son, they said, 'your son has not done any crime, it’s just an inquiry and we will release him in a day”.

“Even a simple request to talk to him for two minutes was denied- and only when out of anguish I said will immolate myself, they gave me a number to call him and that number also went unanswered.”

“Government says LTTE has been annihilated, so how could my son help resurrect them?” she added. “These children are innocent, and we are fighting for justice.”

Sasikaran’s wife is also at the protest and said that her newborn child has yet to see its father.

“My husband was arrested on 17th June 2020," she told the Tamil Guardian. 'I was pregnant back then. Now, my baby has not even been able to see the father’s face. We haven’t been allowed to see my husband for the past seven months. I’m deeply anguished along with my two children. They (the police) said they were taking my husband to the police station for an inquiry, but they arrested him there itself. We haven’t got justice yet. We don’t know what to do. Someone must deliver a judgement and release my husband soon.” 

"The Intelligence Department intimidated those who were demonstrating alongside us and has forced them to distance themselves from our protests," continued Kosaladevi. "They have intimidated them by saying that ‘if you protested here, your detained children will be harmed there’. Other countries must lend their voice to us. Our children need justice!” 

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s police spokesperson reacted to the protest by threatening to arrest the relatives and blaming the Tamil diaspora. Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana was quoted as stating,

 “If the mothers and children who are protesting in Killinochi revolt against the government, try to form a separate state, they would be arrested”.

See more from JDS here.

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