06/01/2017, 18.49
SRI LANKA
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Tamil mother in Jaffna weeps for her abducted daughter who just celebrated her 25th birthday

by Melani Manel Perera

Jeromy was kidnapped by soldiers on 4 March 2009. Her mother Jeyavanitha continues to celebrate every birthday on 28 May. Some 50 women hold a peaceful picket. We “will never stop asking what happened to our missing children. Not until we die."

Colombo (AsiaNews) – "On 28 May, Kasipillai Jeromy would have been 25 years old. She would have cut the cake and blown out the candles, celebrating her birthday covered in kisses and the affection of her loved ones. Instead, she has been missing for eight years,” said her mother Kasipillai Jeyavanitha, as she stirred her anguished memories.

Since her daughter went missing, abducted in the last phase of the civil war between Tigers Tamil and the army, she has been fighting to find out what happened to her.

Her hope of hugging her again was reborn in 2014 when she recognised her daughter in a picture of young people on an electoral flyer for Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka’s current president.

"At that moment, we started a new life,” she said, “fuelled by the hope that they were alive, somewhere in the country. But so far, nothing has been done. We ask the President to listen to our prayers."

We met Jeyavanitha, a Tamil Catholic, in Kilinochchi in the Jaffna Peninsula. For nearly a hundred days, she has been on a Sathyagraha (peaceful picket) on the main highway, along with 50 other women, all mothers of teenagers who disappeared during the conflict.

"Some of us come and go,” she noted, “but I sit day and night. My husband and my children come to visit me here because I do not want to leave."

Like in past years on Jeromy's birthday, she ate a slice of cake in her memory. "I will never cease celebrating her birthday, like that of so many young people about whom we know nothing anymore."

With tears-filled eyes, she remembers the moment when soldiers took her daughter. "It was 4 March 2009. My family was among the thousands of people trapped in the area controlled by Tamil rebels. During shelling, I and my 17-year-old daughter fled for a safe place. But we were blocked by an army truck. The soldiers came and made us get inside a pickup truck, along with other women."

"My daughter Jeromy was crying," she remembers, torn by the pain, "and wanted to jump off the truck. But I stopped her and told her that as long as we were together, nothing bad would happen to her. But after a few minutes the soldiers pushed me and another woman out, and they took off at full speed. That was the last time I saw my daughter's blurred face as the truck sped away leaving behind a cloud of sand."

After recognising her daughter in the electoral flyer, Jeyavanitha was able to meet with President Sirisena in July 2015. He assured her that he was going to open an investigation.

"Nothing happened. We were not able to recognise the uniforms the kids were wearing in those photos or the school they were at. Only the president knows and can tell us something."

Most women involved in the peaceful sit-in "are now old. But we will never stop asking what happened to our missing children. Not until we die."

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