Tamil mothers protest over missing loved ones
by Melani Manel Perera

The UN today marks International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances celebrates. In Sri Lanka, the missing remain an open wound years after the civil war. Human rights activist Rev Sathivel asks, “Why is the government not saying anything” about Tamil fighters who surrendered.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Today is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010.

In Sri Lanka, the issue of people going missing during the country’s long civil war is an open wound, as evinced by struggle of Tamil mothers seeking news about their loved ones.

Most of those who disappeared were Tamil, but some Sinhala suffered the same fate.

For the past five years, Tamil mothers have been protesting in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, demanding to know what happened to their loved ones who – after they surrendered to Sri Lankan security forces at the end of the war – never made it home.

After years, the struggle has taken a heavy toll among them; some 98 mothers have died without obtaining answers.

More recently, with COVID-19 making street protests impossible, many of them have opted to pursue their battle from home.

All of them want to know “What happened to their children. Why is the government not saying anything?” asks Rev Marimuttu Sathivel, Anglican priest and human rights activist.

“The worst thing is that despite their determination they are not listened to. Yet, the death of some mothers who have not heard anything about the fate of their loved ones weighs on the conscience of the authorities.”

“The United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNHRC) does not see these enforced disappearances as a war crime, but 'only' a violation of human rights.

“But Tamil mothers are still waiting for an answer from the government. The issue and those responsible should be brought before the International Criminal Court for trial.”

The Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) launched a digital campaign this week to keep alive the memory Sri Lanka’s missing people.

“This is a way to raise awareness about this problem and ask for justice for those who have disappeared," said CSM coordinator Father Shared Jaayawardhane speaking to AsiaNews.