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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Expression of Protest against the Destruction of the Shrine of Innocents

Press Statement
We are deeply sorrowed by seeing that the Shrine of Innocents, which was created in 1999 with the blessings of the present President in order to commemorate those who disappeared during the years of the Reign of Terror (the ‘Bheeshanaya’, in the years from 1987 to 1990), has been flattened to the ground to the point that you can no longer recognize the spot in which it stood.

This act is all the more heinous because this was a memorial erected particularly to remember all those who were murdered and disappeared during the Reign of Terror in our country. This was not only a construction. It was a memorial to all those who had no dignity in their deaths, and who had no final resting ground for their bodies. The destruction of this memorial once more heaps indignity on their memories. It is a terrible blow to their parents and to their families. There can be no justification whatsoever for the destruction of this memorial, which paid tribute to the disappeared of Sri Lanka.

We have never demanded any welfare measures from the present President, even though many of the families of the disappeared live in very dire circumstances.  Nor have we ever received any benefits from the present regime. But many of us have slaved away during election times in order to ensure victory for the President and his party.  We were left with nothing but our memories of the dead and disappeared.
Some politicians who played a critical role in engineering the brutal murders and disappearances during the Reign of Terror are now part and parcel of this government, and derive many benefits from this alliance. They have made a mockery of all our attempts to win justice for the disappeared. The role played by the President, and by Minister Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, in bringing the issue of disappearances to the attention of the world in Geneva loses its value in the face of the present reality. The march to Kataragama loses its meaning. All of us, the members of the families of the disappeared, the members of the families whose loved ones were commemorated at the memorial, are very downhearted at what has happened to the Shrine from its neglect to its wanton destruction. Over the past years we have made several petitions regarding the maintenance and upkeep of the Shrine; all this fell on deaf ears.

We wonder whether the President has forgotten that he too has joined us in offering flowers at the Shrine and remembering the dead and disappeared, for example in December 2003.

We call on the President and the government of Sri Lanka to order the rebuilding of the Shrine in the spot and to prevent any other construction from taking place in that location.



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