COLOMBO: About 300 men and women belonging to families of those who disappeared from North, East and South Sri Lanka, met in Seeduwa, north of here, on Monday, despite insidious threats issued by politically connected thugs.
Brito Fernando, President of the Organization of the Families of Disappeared, told Express that three days back, anonymous posters calling the organisers ‘Devils who are selling the dead and the disappeared for dollars’ had appeared.
“After seeing these chilling posters pasted in Seeduwa, Negombo and Colombo, we expected our meeting to be disrupted in the same way a similar meeting at the Center for Society and Religion (CSR) in Colombo on August 4 was. But fortunately, our meeting went off smoothly,” Fernando said.
In August, a gang led by Buddhist monks had stormed the CSR premises alleging that Tamil families from the North were paid lakhs to attend the meeting.
On Monday, nine speakers drawn from the Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim communities shared the agonising experience of losing a loved one during the conflicts in North and South Lanka since 1989. There are no reliable estimates of forcible disappearances because governments have been hostile to collection of data.
But, Fernando recalled that Mahinda Rajapaksa had said in the early 1990s that 60,000 had disappeared between 1989 and 1992 during the Southern Left wing insurgency. A committee appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the 1990s, had received 26,000 complaints of involuntary disappearance.
As for the missing in Eelam War IV, the Bishop of Mannar, Rev Rayappu Joseph, claimed that 1,47,662 persons are “unaccounted for” as per government statistics.