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Vavuniya families of the disappeared mark 2578 days of continuous protest

Tamil families of the disappeared in Vavuniya are marking 2578 days of continuous roadside protest today. in pursuit of answers to the whereabouts of their forcibly disappeared loved ones.

Many of the families witnessed their relatives being taken into Sri Lankan military custody at the end of the armed conflict in 2009 or they were abducted in white vans. 

The secretary of the Vavuniya Families of the Disappeared association, Gopalakrishnan Rajkumar, said that the only solution is a political solution that takes into consideration the aspirations of the Tamils and ensures there are sufficient safeguards from genocide, oppression, and occupation. He also mentioned the arrests of the devotees at the Vedukkunaari during Shivarathri adding that it was a clear indication of attempts to thwart the right to practice the religion by Tamils in the homeland. 

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.

Rajkumar also requested the international community to assist in the development of the homeland through economic ventures. He invited them to set up garment factories, food processing, and packaging facilities which would provide jobs. He said these initiatives would support the Tamil community and enable them to move away from expecting welfare from the Sri Lankan government. 

He went on to say that these projects should be independent of the Sri Lankan government’s initiatives. 

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.

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