Families of missing persons in Sri Lanka’s north have told a Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Monday and Tuesday that they handed over their missing husbands, sons and brothers to the Sri Lankan army during the final days of the war via the mediation of Rev. Father Frances, who is also reported missing.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Missing Persons (PCIMP) is having their sittings in the Mulltivu district from Sunday. Selected families of the disappeared people were invited to give their witness statements at the sittings at Karaithuraipattu Divisional Secretariat Division.
Giving witnesses, they have said “in accordance with the army’s announcement to surrender, we handed over our loved ones to army with the mediation of Rev. Father Frances. We saw them being loaded into a red colour bus belonging to Sri Lanka Transport Board. We have not heard of them ever since then,” the relatives of the disappeared persons have told the PCIMP.
“I handed over my elder son to the army at Vadduvahal. My son surrendered to the army based on its announcement. Not only my son, about 40 other people were there with him when he surrendered at Vadduvahal. The army did not allow me to accompany my son in the red bus of Sri Lanka Transport Board and we were loaded into a separate bus. The bus carrying my son and others was coming behind our bus till Vavuniya but it disappeared thereafter,” a mother, Thanabalasingam Pushpambal told the Commission on Monday
.According to eye witnesses, Rev. Father Frances has helped the LTTE cadres in the process of surrendering but he too has been missing like the surrendered LTTE cadres. The government of Sri Lanka, which has vehemently been rejecting the surrender fiasco of the LTTE cadres, has also denied knowledge of the Christian priest.
This is despite the fact that the evidences, including mobile phone videos, are being surfaced every now and then about the surrendered LTTE cadres being alive while in military custody, before being executed.
- Asked by the Commissioner whether her son was a member of the LTTE, Pushpambihai shot back saying that her son would not have to surrender at Vadduvahal had he not been an LTTEer. It’s not my son alone, everybody who were there were linked to the LTTE in one way or the other,” the wailing mother has said, adding many people were working with the LTTE for payment, because there were no government jobs available.
Another mother, Rajendram Thavamalar told the Commission that her son was forcibly recruited by the Tamil Tiger rebels on March 26, 2009 and was taken away by the army when her family came into the army-held areas.
“The army took him away from us at the Omanthai military check post for questioning. We have not heard of him since then,” she told the Commission.
This mother has reacted angrily when the Commissioner crossed examined her whether she saw her son being taken away by the army.
The wife of LTTE in-charge for Kilinochchi has also given affidavit to the Commission on Monday. She has claimed that she, her husband and along with two children were among those who surrendered to the army as per its announcement at Vadduvahal.
“As the LTTE cadres had language problem, it was Rev. Father Frances who got their names and other details, handed over to the army. They separated my husband from me and took him away along with 75 other LTTE cadres. They were taken to the nearby Palmyrah grove at Vadduvahal,” she told the Commission.
“They were loaded into a red bus along with Father Frances. I saw four known families being taken away with the surrendered LTTE cadres in that bus. There were children among those who were taken away as families. I do not know what happened to my husband thereafter. I don’t know what happened to the families with children. We have not heard of them to-date. There was no news about them,” she said.
“I am able to give witness here today because my husband insisted that I should go away with his mother,” she said.
Another mother has said that nobody “has prevented us from going to safer places”.
“It is the government which ordered the people to gather in one place and then killed them by shelling at them,” she has stressed.
On Tuesday, the Commission heard more complaints about the LTTE’s forcible recruitments and efforts to prevent those people from going into the government held areas.
Meanwhile, a mother who has given witness about her son’s disappearance has been questioned by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) few minutes after she appeared before the Commission.
Independent rights activists and think tanks have expressed serious concerns about the credibility and mandate given to the PCIMP and the nature of how the sittings are taking place.
[Original Caption:We handed them to army with Father Frances’ mediation: Families]
[Eye wittness testifying at the commission: Photos:Colombo Mirror]