Tamil families of the disappeared in Vavuniya marked their 1900th day of continuous roadside protest yesterday, in pursuit of answers to the whereabouts of their loved ones.
The families also paid their respects to 75-year-old Thangarasa Selvarani, who passed away earlier this week and had been part of the families of disappeared protest in Vavuniya. She was demanding justice for the disappearances of her son Thangarasa Thayaparan, son-in-law- Thampu Thiyagarasa and grandson Thiyagarasa Manokaran, all who were reportedly abducted by the Sri Lankan military in 2008.
Many of the families witnessed their relatives being taken into Sri Lankan military custody at the end of the armed conflict or they were abducted in white vans.
Throughout their protest, Tamil families have maintained simple demands:
1. Release a list of surrendees from the final phase of the armed conflict;
2. Release the yearly lists of detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) since 1978;
3. Investigate and release the list of all past and present secret detention centres;
4. Continuously consult families to keep them at the centre of any solution; and
5. Commence all four transitional justice mechanisms in tandem, including a justice mechanism.
Although the families have been searching for justice, successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to address the fate of their disappeared loved ones. Tamil families have repeatedly rejected domestic mechanisms as they have failed to meet any of the demands outlined by the families and have instead appealed to the international community to initiate an international investigation into the forced disappearances.
Over 115 parents have died without knowing the truth about their disappeared children. Although many of the relatives are elderly and vulnerable and face routine harassment from the Sri Lankan authorities, they continue their struggle for justice and accountability.