The daughter of a Tamil disappearances activist, Balendran Jeyakumari, who was detained by Sri Lankan security forces ahead of the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka in March 2014, appealed to the new president, Maithripala Sirisena this week to release her mother.
"Dear President Maithripala Sirisena, please think of me as your child and release my innocent, very innocent mother. She has not committed any crime. I also humbly request that you release my 3rd brother as well," 14 year old Vipoosika, who is currently housed in a children's home in the North, wrote to the president in a letter dated February 16.
"I cannot live without my mother, if I don’t see her I will drink poison and kill myself. I beseech you to please release my mother before that."
"Please, Maithripala Sirisena Sir, please tell them to release my mother. I will wait eagerly for the news in the newspapers of your ordering her release. I finish my sad letter to you on this note," she continued.
Full letter reproduced below.
On March 13 2014, anti-terror police detained Vipoosika and Ms Jeyakumari under Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Vipoosika was later released, however, her mother was transferred to Boosa prison, notorious for its endemic use of torture and sexual violence against Tamil detainees.
The Woman's Action Network (WAN) said at the time of their arrest:
"Both the mother and daughter have been in the frontline of many protested organized by Mannar citizens committee and families that are looking for missing and disappeared members. She and her daughter have been featured in many video documentaries on disappeared including the Channel 4 that was released in Nov. 2013. Beside Jayakumari has been the leader of mobilizing the families in Killinochchi for various hearings, public protests and meetings. She has met many visiting diplomats and media persons. Jayakumari’s one son was killing in Trincomalee, the second one died of a shell attack in Mullivaikal. She handed over her third son (Balendran Mahinthan) to SL army in May 2009 and at that time he was 15 years old."
In a chilling interview with Channel 4 before her arrest, Ms Jeyakumari described being unknown people following her home and threatening her.
"Unknown faces follow me and track me whenever I go home after protests. [To me, in my mind, this frightens me]," Ms Jeyakumari told Channel 4 in the video.
“This is a serious threat. We are terrified to live here."
“I gladly give this interview to Channel 4 to publicise my plight.”
Commenting on her video, the director of the acclaimed documentary “No Fire Zone: Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, Callum Macrae, said last year:
“They (Sri Lanka) are under enormous scrutiny… and yet they still seem to think that in the north where the Tamils live, they can act with impunity, that they can simply arrest prominent human rights defenders and get away with it.”
|Ms. Jeyakumari, and Vipoosika at a protest against disappearances in November 2013
Full transcript of letter, translated into English below. (Courtesy of Free JeyaKumary campaign).
(A children’s Home in the North)
I wish to bring to the attention of Honorable President Maithripala Sirisena that:
Last year on 13.03.2014 when my mother went to close our door after giving food, an unknown stranger entered into the house, We asked “Who are you?” to which he said “Don’t make a noise, if you do I will strangle your necks and kill you.” My mother held me, opened the door and ran out of the house. At that time, armed soldiers and police came and took hold of our hands. Then one of them went into the house. We heard two gunshots. Then he came out shouting. After that they interrogated us. They told us we were connected to the person shot at. I promise on my mother that we do not know him at all.
Then the police and military took us away. They interrogated my mother and me separately. Before my very eyes they hit my mother and pulled her by the hair. They fastened electric shock handcuffs to her hands and said “Tell us the truth or we will switch on the current.” After I felt sleepy I just slept there. They kept on hitting my mother, I was told, trampling on her and held her by the hair and threatened her by saying “Tell us the truth or we will kill you and your child.” It was just a few days earlier that I had attained puberty but they hit me too. They brought two women we did not know and wanted to separate my mother and me. I said I would not leave my mother. When I said that they hit my mother. They said “Tell her to go.” After that around 7.30 pm they took us to the court.
A lawyer named Vijayarani came there. Child Probation Officer Miss Viji also came. Then we all went to the Judge’s house and related everything that happened. He handed me over to the custody of the Child Probation Officer Miss. Viji. I adamantly cried saying I did not want to go. My mother said, “You go and study, let me tell the Hon. Judge what happened”. I have no one, only my mother. My mother only has me. I had three brothers. My eldest brother was killed by unidentified persons. My second brother died during the war. My third brother is on the list of the disappeared. My father died on 19.04.2012 due to cancer. We were living alone with assistance from no-one. My mother made food parcels from home and it is from that income that she was managing the expenditure for my studies.
Afterwards Miss. Viji took me to the hospital. The next day was a Monday (17.03.2014) they took me to court. There were many people waiting to take me with them. They took me away to XXX (a children’s Home in the North). Since separated from my mother I was in deep contemplation. I was feeling utterly depressed. I heard that my mother was taken to the Boosa Detention Centre. Afterwards I told court that I wanted to see my mother. They allowed it. I went to see her to Boosa. I was very sad to see her. I thought to myself, “Why is God giving us so much trouble?”
My mother and I had lost my brothers. Only my mother and I are left now. We too thought of going to where my brothers were. But the thought that my third brother is alive made me worry less. Prior to her arrest, my mother went to Kilinochchi, where a meeting was being held. There she bought a book from one of the girls there. In that book (Guidebook on the LLRC), on the 41st page she saw my 3rd brother’s photo. Therefore she was in high hopes that my brother was still alive. Thereafter, we continuously protested with other families of the disappeared, I too pleaded, “please give me back my brother.”
Dear President Maithripala Sirisena, please think of me as your child and release my innocent, very innocent mother. She has not committed any crime. I also humbly request that you release my 3rd brother as well. I would like to meet you honorable Sir, but as I cannot meet you I write this letter. Sir, I cannot live without my mother, if I don’t see her I will drink poison and kill myself. I beseech you to please release my mother before that. Please, Maithripala Sirisena Sir, please tell them to release my mother. I will wait eagerly for the news in the newspapers of your ordering her release. I finish my sad letter to you on this note.