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We will die for our children – 100th day of protest tomorrow in Kilinochchi

Tomorrow, May 30th, marks 100 days since the families of the disappeared started protesting in Kilinochchi.

For 100 days, protestors, mainly women, have continued to sit in heat and dust along the A9 in Kilinochchi Town – just steps away from the Sri Lankan Army’s 57 Division Headquarters. Protesters’ relatives were forcibly disappeared during or after the war including through abduction, when being handed over to government authorities or while in government custody for rehabilitation. In addition to the overarching demand for the truth about the whereabouts of their loved ones, the two specific demands families have been articulating which are for the government to:

1. Release the name list of those forcibly disappeared; and
2. Release the name list of those being held in secret detention centers and permit family members to visit such centers.

“Our intention is to have our loved ones back, to live again with our children and siblings, that is our intention," one of the elderly women here repeatedly says. "Before I die I want to live at least one day with my child. The government needs to understand this,” a protester told Tamil Guardian. Several protesters conveyed the desperate need for closure – including full information on their child’s death if it is the case that they are deceased.

Name(s): Muralitharan Nadesu; Kirishnakmari Muralitharan; Sariyan Muralitharan & Apitha Muralitharan

Date of Disappearance: May 18, 2009 

“We gave our children to you [government authorities] with trust… children, father and mother… he [the father] was the only person who was a part of the LTTE…”

“I will light myself on fire…how can I live thinking of these young children... I’m their grandma. When they were born would they have thought that they would be living as they are now? They may have been abused …would they have eaten any food that they liked?”

Over the past 99 days, there has been no government response to the protest – no senior level government official has even addressed the issue. The group has even made lobbying efforts such as requesting that the European Parliament not restore GSP+ status until a list of surrendees/detainees is released

Name(s): Thavakumar Thirugnansampanthamoorthy

Date of Disappearance: April 22, 2009 

“They [the army] took us like a herd of cows and kept us without food, I had fainted many times….Some people were selling king coconut and so my son went and bought one and then when he went to get it cut he stepped on a land mine. The army took him to the hospital and they forbid me from going with him. He is my only child.”

“My son is a compassionate person. When people were gravely injured in the Mathalan hospital, the TRO was giving food but many of them left in fear. My son knows how to drive and so him and his uncle would go and deliver food to the hospital. When he returned back I would question him and ask him how he had the audacity to go, what if you got stuck in a shell attack, what would I do? I would ask. He held me and said, is my life the only life? Come see the other people in the hospital and what condition they are living in...” 

Nonetheless, with the support of the neighboring Murugan temple and local community members, the protesters have persevered in their campaign. However, many of the participants are experiencing diminishing physical and mental health conditions. Several women are unable to sleep and eat; while fainting and being admitted to the hospital is a common occurrence.

Name(s): Abirami Premnath

Date of Disappearance: 2009 

“My daughter reached Zone 4 [Menik Farm IDP Camp]… people there told us that she was there but by the time we reached there she was gone. People said that she had been loaded onto a bus.”

“She had gotten accepted into university [for music]…she could sing well and she was sharp… We want our child, we are living in the belief that they are alive.” 

As mothers prepare for a major demonstration tomorrow marking 100 days of the protest, there are reports that police have applied to the Kilinochchi Magistrate for an order staying any big demonstrations. Many of the protesters emphasized to Tamil Guardian that this protest is the end of the rope for them. “We are all prepared to drink poison and die… we will die for our children.”

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