by Melani Manel Perera
For the 23rd anniversary of the Day of the Disappeared, 350 women have asked the President of Sri Lanka for their loved ones to be returned. The testimony of two mothers. Since 1987, 5 thousand people victims of “enforced disappearances”.
Raddolugama (AsiaNews) – “Our children and our husbands were taken by the government security forces . Nobody else took them away, the military did. This is why we call them disappeared. President Mahinda Rajapaksa must bring them home”. This is the appeal of 350 Tamil women from the north of Sri Lanka, who traveled to Raddolugama ( south of the country ) on the 27th of October to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Day of the Disappeared , organized by the Families of Disappeared . In this place a large monument in honor of all those of whom all trace has been lost was erected.
At the time of the civil war, the armed forces justified the so-called “forced disappearances” accusing these men of ties with members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE , Tamil Tigers ), the rebels who were fighting for the creation of an independent Tamil state .
Udaya Chandara, a middle-aged woman, came from the Mannar district to participate in the commemoration. “I dare say – she explains to AsiaNews in tears – that the military took my only son. I call it kidnapping. They kidnapped him while he slept in our house, and took him somewhere on this island. I do not want to call him ‘disappeared’ . Since his disappearance , in 2008, I have tried to find my son everywhere. We are not begging for food ; ask only that they bring our children home”.
The woman carried a color photo of her son with her to the encounter. She knows that the police demand death certificates from mothers whose loved ones have disappeared . “But I ‘m waiting for those officers to come to me – she says – and tell me to pick up a death certificate for my son that they took away from me. If they come, I will take my shoes to them.”
Many other women have similar stories to Udaya . Sebastian Devi, from the eastern district of Trincomalee, saw both her children taken away by the police. “In my case – she says – it happened in broad daylight. They said that they had only to question them but … how many years have gone by now? ” .
Worsening the plight of these women is the further threats they suffered at they hands of members of the law enforcement. Using the excuse that they wish to contact them to give them news, the officers ask for their phone numbers, and in the middle of the night call them and sexually harass them.
Sebastian Devi reveals that the women are also victims of bribes: “I once gave a bribe of 1.5 million rupees ( € 8400 ) to two officials . They told me that if I wanted my son back, I had to pay them. But after doing so, they disappeared and I never heard anything about my boy. I later I found out that they had given the money to naval officers. I’ve reported them, but the prosecutor closed the case . “
According to Families of Disappeared, since 1987 at least 5 thousand people have been victims of “enforced disappearances”.