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Never ending search for the missing -two thousand visited police

By Dinasena Ratugamage/ Vavuniya
They came in their hundreds in search of their loved ones. Almost all returned empty handed.
Nearly two thousand Tamils have visited the police in the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavunia over the last ten days to find details of those missing during the war and since the military declaring it’s victory over Tamil Tigers more than two years ago.

Ten days ago Sri Lankan police announced they will release information about those held by the police to relatives.

Police spokesperson SP Prishantha Jayakody told BBC Sandeshaya that the information will not be made available to “any body other than the close relatives”.

Three centres established in the north, south and the capital Colombo will provide details of those held by the police Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), he said.

Only one man out of thousands who went to the centre in Vavunia was told where his son is. As soon as he was told that the detainee is held hundreds of miles away in the southern town of Galle, he rushed to board the first available train out of town.

Due to the large number of relatives approaching the Vavunia centre, police only meet 200 people each day.

Journalists barred by the police were only able to talk to desperate and tearful relatives by the wayside.

Those who were unable to gather information of their missing relatives were desperate.

“My 26 year old son Pradeep was taken by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) when he went to Colombo to get his passport. That’s all we know,” Mylu Shanmugathas from Tellipalai told the BBC after his search since 2008 drew a blank once again.

Mr. Shanmugathas has been to police stations, military camps and human rights offices in search of his son.

Some were looking for their sole breadwinner.

“There is no one to provide me. Who will look after me or care if I fall ill?” cried a frail looking Tamil woman who said that her son had gone missing since been taken by the police in 2007.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in place since 1979 gives the authorities power to hold detainees for 90 days incommunicado.

The defence secretary is the sole authority to renew or revoke a Detention Order (DO) under the PTA.

Brother of the president Gotabhaya Rajapaksa currently holds the position.

United Nations, European Commission and India alongside human rights organisations have called for the repeal of teh PTA.

TID officials in Vavunia say that they are unable to provide details of the ‘dissapeared’.

The Committee for the Investigation (CID) in Sri Lanka say that they have recorded details of over five thousand dissapearances that took place since 2006.

Relatives in Vavunia keep coming to the TID information centre daily with gradually diminishing hope.

Leading the Sri Lankan delegation Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa told the UN Human Rights Commission in early July that over five thousand suspected Tamil Tigers are held in what he called rehabilitation centres
BBC Sinhala


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