Tamil families of the disappeared have launched a hunger strike in Mullaitivu marking Sri Lanka's 73rd Independence Day as a 'black day' as they continue to demand to know the whereabouts of their forcibly disappeared loved ones.
Families of the disappeared raised black flags today in protest against Sri Lanka's 'Independence Day' and called on the international community to ensure justice and accountability for the Tamil victim-survivor community.
"We need the international community and the United Nations to deliver justice for us. On this 'Independence Day', we have undertaken this protest amidst a deep sense of fear. We don't even have the freedom to speak or the freedom to go where we want to. Court orders, police bans, signatures obtained from us under duress, have made carrying out our protests even more difficult. We are searching for our disappeared relatives in this situation," the head of the Mullaitivu Missing Persons' Association, Mariyasuresh Easwary, said.
She expressed her disappointment over the lack of answers they have had despite seeking answers from various mechanisms. "We have approached the courts, we did not get justice there. We approached commissions of inquiry, we did not get our justice there either. We have attended sessions as the United Nations several times, but nothing has changed. We have no options left but to approach them again. We are under great intimidation and plans have been made to arrest us aswell," she added.
"I am searching for my husband. It is my duty as mother to tell my children whether or not their father is alive. That is why I am participating in this protest. Nobody forced me to do this."
Speaking to the press, another member of the association said, “We consider this day to be a 'black day'. On this day, we are really not independent. In a situation where we have not been given the justice that is due to us, we are continuing our protest for the 1429th day. We will continue to protest until we secure justice.”
“As we continue to protest, we have been subjected to a lot of intimidation and have also been served with ban orders from the court. Despite all this, we are observing the independence day to be a black day and are expressing our protest,” she said.
Recalling the final days of the armed conflict, the relative of the disappeared said:
“During the end of the war in 2009, I handed my husband to the Sri Lankan security forces. They said they would return him after some interrogations, but I haven’t heard back ever since. We have recorded our testimony to commissions of inquiry.”
Protesters held photos of their disappeared loved ones with placards that read, “Independence Day is Black Day for Us!” and “Independence in the South and Oppression in the North!”
The families of the disappeared hunger strike coincides with the massive protest from Pottuvil to Polikandi, two furthest ends of the Tamil homeland, demanding the international community to take heed to Tamil demands for justice and accountability Sri Lanka to ensure justice accountability ahead of the upcoming 46th session of the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC).