Families of the disappeared (FOD) across the North-East marked 4 years of continuous roadside protests this week.
For 4 years the FOD’s demands of the whereabouts of their family members, the majority of whom had been handed over to the Sri Lankan Army at the end of the armed conflict in May 2009, continues to be ignored by the Sri Lankan government.
Speaking at an awareness protest marking 4 years of protest, Jeyavanitha Kaasipillai, head of the FOD in Vavuniya stated
“On the 1466th day of protests in Vavuniya a mother passed away after searching for her son for 21 years.” referring to 61 year old, Thamotharampillai Perinpanayaki, from Maravankulam who passed away in Vavuniya this week.
“Her death is the only justice she received. She was unable to see her son even after searching for this long. She suffered for a long time before she passed; she parted once her son’s shirt was placed on her. Imagine how much the mother suffered, this government still doesn’t understand the suffering”.
Over 75 parents of the FOD have passed away in the Tamil Homeland since they began their protests in February 2017.
“We are protesting every day, is this going to be our fate too? The international community must look at us; that is the only way we will get justice, if not we will only see death.” Stated Jeyavanitha, adding
“Today we have been protesting for 1468 days. Only we know the tears shed and the suffering for our children, but the government is silent, that is why we are asking the international community for help. The US, EU and India have to come forward and obtain a solution for us. The UN must also see this message, is death the only justice the Sri Lankan government will give to the mothers?”
Another mother part of the protest shared her struggle,
“I handed over my son at Omanthai in 2009; they said they will give him back. There are many other children like this. We don’t know what they have done with our children, to which country they sold them. The international community must see this; the Sri Lankan government will not give us any answers. The international community must come forward and give an answer for our protests.”
The FOD concluded their statement with “Our struggle in search of our children will continue”.
A rally was also carried out by FOD through Kilinochchi this week, demanding justice for their forcibly disappeared relatives and for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Protesters marched bearing ‘thee-chatti’ (fire-pot) - clay pots containing live coals - on their heads, a traditional Tamil practice of penance or vow-fulfilment.
"We have been fighting non-stop for four years, and we have been waiting for our children to return for twelve years. Still there is no justice," stated a protester. "That is why we carry black flags."
Vavuniya FOD criticised the draft United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution this week, underlining the resolution’s failure to acknowledge Tamils, the need for an independent international accountability mechanism and nothing alluding to Tamil self-determination.