ICRC and Tamil families ask Wickremesinghe for the truth about Sri Lanka’s missing
Thirteen years after the end of the civil war, the fate of thousands of young Tamils who surrendered to government forces in the latter stages of the conflict is still unknown. People rally on the International Day of the Disappeared, urging the government to create a credible investigation mechanism.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Tamil families in north-eastern Sri Lanka are calling for the creation of a mechanism that would provide answers to the fate of people who went missing during the country’s civil war (1983-2009).
Thus far, about 138 parents with missing children have already died without knowing the truth about their fate. Many more want to know what happened to the thousands of young people who disappeared in the latter stages of the conflict that pitted the country’s Tamil minority against the Sinhala-dominated central government.
According to Amnesty International, Sri Lanka has one of the largest number of missing people in the world, ranging 60,000 to 100,000. The fight to know what happened to the young Tamils who surrendered at the end of the war – when former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Minister of Defence – has been led mostly Tamil women.
"The suffering of those who do not know what happened to their loved ones remains one of the least visible humanitarian problems,” the ICRC said on Tuesday, International Day of the Disappeared.
For the humanitarian agency, the authorities, communities, and society in general should recognise the burden families carry, support their needs, and stand by them to remember their lost loved ones.
For human rights activist Sandya Eknaligoda, whose husband is among the missing, international organisations are losing faith in the existing mechanism that is supposed to investigate missing persons.
“Although an Office on Missing Persons (OMP) was established under the previous United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) administration (2015-2020), it lost its credibility when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed his people to the OMP,” said Sandya Eknaligoda.
For this reason, the international community also lost its faith in the office; hence, “I call on President Wickremesinghe to take up this challenge and establish a credible mechanism to probe and bring justice to families affected by enforced disappearances, especially those in the North and the East. Women cannot carry forever a photograph of their missing husband or son seeking justice."
To this end, Tamil families have recently held protests with the support of local businesses who, in solidarity, closed their activities.