11/19/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Civil War victims want the government to say where their army-abducted relatives are

by Melani Manel Perera
During the meeting of the leaders of Commonwealth on 15-17 November, hundreds of Sri Lankans, from north to south, met foreign journalists to tell their tragic stories. During the conflict, husbands and sons were taken away in white vans never to be seen again. "The president knows the truth," some say.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The police, the armed forces and the President of Sri Lanka "know very well what has happened to our relatives. For this reason, we ask the government to tell us where they are. We will not rest until we find out the truth," said hundreds of people - mostly women - from northern and eastern Sri Lanka, who have had sons and husbands disappear during the country's civil war.

Taking advantage of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, families victimised by the conflict told their tragic stories to the many foreign journalists in the country for the summit.

All their stories follow the same script: husbands or sons are picked up by men in uniform or plainclothes, thrown into a white van, whether in the middle of the night or in broad daylight; ostensibly for a brief interrogation, but no one comes home. When families want to know what happened to them, government officials either ignored their appeals or lie about the fate of those who disappeared.

Kanagasingham Sivajini, 37, comes from Trincomalee (Eastern Province). She has not seen her husband for five years. "He disappeared on 17 June 2008," she told AsiaNews. "He was a friendly person, even towards soldiers."

"That night, soldiers broke into our house, breaking a window. They dragged my husband away for 2 km. My two children and I went after them, but when they went into the jungle we stopped. We asked them to let him go, and the soldiers told us that he would be home the next morning. I have not seen him ever since."

"My son was only 15 when he was taken away by the military. He had gone fishing with five of his friends," said K. Palaninaadan, 65.

"Some elders of our village saw the kidnapping. They tried to stop the soldiers, but they threatened to kill them if they said anything to anyone about the incident."

"We have one big question for the president," he added. "Why is he silent and claiming that he does not know anything whilst we are aware of all these incidents? There are plenty of eye-witnesses to these 'forced disappearances'."

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