Leaders of the Tamil Families of the Disappeared group (FOD), have called on the Sri Lankan state to immediately release the leader of Vavuniya's FOD, Jentta. They vehemently condemned the arbitrary arrest and detention of the aggrieved Tamil woman, who attempted to speak on behalf of the FOD with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe during his visit to Vavuniya earlier this week.
At a press meeting in Mullativu, Suresh Eeshwari (pictured above), made the following statements:
"Those who were arrested during the protest ahead of President Ranil's visit to the North-East were physically attacked. Is it wrong for Jenita to have demanded the whereabouts of her husband? Clearly President Ranil was visiting the North-East, ahead of the 2024 Presidential election, to speak with the Tamils. It is the aggrieved groups, such as ours (the FOD), whom he needed to have consulted with to ensure meaningful justice and accountability. Jentta has been relentlessly seeking answers about her husband's whereabouts from the state since the past 16 years, whilst single-handedly raising her children. In her quest for justice, the Sri Lankan state has detained her multiple times".
She spoke of the constant initmidation of the authorities against members of the FOD. "The Sri Lankan police are intentionally suppressing our peaceful protests and efforts for justice," said Eeshwari. "The police in the Mullaitivu district come searching for me at my house at 9:45 PM and are questioning whether we (Mullaitivu FOD) are involved in drug-dealing when searching for us in this manner."
"The police have no rights to prevent us from seeking justice. The police are subjecting our (FOD) women to sexual harassment and physical abuse as intimidation tactics during times of interrogation. To subject aggrieved mothers to such treatment is horrible. The police have to stop this immediately and release Jenita. Otherwise, we will initate protests against the police!," she stressed.
Head of the Jaffna FOD, Ilankothai (pictured above) stressed that the FOD "have not requested the (Sri Lankan) government for compensation or anything, but to disclose the whereabouts of our children". "The government has to take immediate action to release the head of Vavinya's Tamil Families of the Disappeared group," urged Ilankothai.
Expressing concern over the said incident, she criticised the double standards exhibited by the Sri Lankan police. She highlighted the authorities' tolerance of public death threats made by extremist Sinhalese Buddhists against Tamils on the island, while simultaneously repressing and intimidating members of Tamil FOD.
"This only shows that the state is dangerously authoritarian," remarked Ilankothai, emphasising the infringement on democratic rights. She questioned the fairness of the Sri Lankan authorities, accusing them of routinely arresting and intimidating those seeking answers about the disappeared children. Ilankothai urged the government to address these discrepancies and ensure the protection of Tamils exercising their democratic rights.
Head of the Mannar FOD, Manuel Uthayachandra (pictured above), also condemned "the violent and arbitrary arrest" of Jenita, criticising the President's failure to visit or listen to members of the FOD during his visit to Vavuniya.
Tamil FODs have been protesting for over 2,000 days calling on the state to reveal the whereabouts of their loved ones, who were forcibly disappeared by the state over 14 years ago, and urging international intervention in ensuring accountability for past and ongoing state crimes against the Tamils in the North-East. Jenita's arrest has further raised concerns about the state's commitment to addressing the grievances of the Tamils, contrary to the supposed representative 'Himalaya Declaration'.