Another parent who was involved in a series of protests by the families of the disappeared has passed away in Mullaitivu.
The woman has been identified as Michael Jesus Mary, a 74 year old from Manikkapuram in Mullaitivu. Mary’s son, Michael Joseph disappeared in Matale in 2009. Mary who has been taking part in protests requesting the whereabouts of her son and other disappeared persons, passed away due to illness while continuing to fight for her son in Mullaitivu. Relatives of 18 other disappeared persons who protested in search of their missing relatives with Mary are still engaged in the struggle.
Mary’s passing comes after a number of parents searching for their disappeared family have passed away. A 69-year-old father from Mullaitivu, Kanagasabai Nithya died in June looking for his daughter who was forcibly disappeared in Mullivaikkal 11 years ago. Vairamuthu Sivakumar, a father from Vavuniya searching for his son Jathavakumar who was taken in 2006 passed away after 1,220 days of continued protesting. Another Tamil father from Cheddikulam, Thirunavukarasu also passed away looking for his son who went missing in Vavuniya in 2008. Sinnachami Nallathambi was a 71 year old who also passed away searching for his son that was abducted by unidentified men in front of the Vavuniya court in 2008.
The relatives of the disappeared have been engaged in a series of campaigns in the North-East to find their loved ones who were handed over to the military at the end of the war in 2009 on the premise that they would be returned, abducted with white vans, or disappeared via other means. The series of protest that started in March 2017 have passed the 1250th day at present.
In January 2020, the Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa had made a widely condemned declaration that the thousands of forcibly disappeared Tamils ‘“are actually dead”. In 2016, Ranil Wickremesinghe caused outrage when he made similar claims stating that the disappeared were “most probably dead”. The families of the disappeared have pleaded for support from the international community to “urgently come forward and help investigate the Sinhala chauvinist government’s genocide by establishing a special tribunal” and to take the government to the International Criminal Court to seek justice, saying to the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner that “this is our last wish”.
The families of the disappeared also stated “Sri Lanka’s forced disappearances of Tamils carried out by the Sinhala government are a form of ethnic cleansing. During the final stages of the conflict in Vanni, many people were forcibly disappeared. In places that weren’t directly hit by the violence, many people were forcibly disappeared through white van abductions or armed soldiers.
Following the end of the war in the Vanni, many wives and parents surrendered their partners and children, and believed the false promises of the state. Many people were forcibly disappeared while they were receiving treatment at hospitals and others were taken when being questioned at the checkpoints. Others have also been taken from isolation and rehabilitation camps.”
Although several campaigners and relatives of the disappeared are elderly and vulnerable, the protests to find their loved ones and to hold the perpetrators accountable continues.