COLOMBO: The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, C.V.Wigneswaran, on Wednesday appealed to President Maithripala Sirisena to send a senior minister post haste to Vavuniya to give some assurance to the men and women who are on a “fast unto death” that government would take steps to address their demands regarding forced disappearances and political prisoners.
In a letter to the President, Wigneswaran pointed out that the hunger strikers, who are not even drinking water, are getting very weak and warned: “Unless something is done immediately we may lose the valuable lives of some of the Satyagrahis.”
The Chief Minister appealed to the President to direct a Senior Minister to go over to Vavuniya and give the Satyagrahis some assurance.
Wigneswaran suggested that a time frame be given for proper steps to be taken with regard to the missing or disappeared.
“One of the fasting individuals, a female, is holding a picture with her daughter standing beside Your Excellency. At least her whereabouts could be immediately ascertained and she could be released to her mother,” the Chief Minister said.
Drawing the attention of the President to the government’s commitment to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and replace it with a law of international standard, Wigneswaran said that if the PTA is withdrawn, many political prisoners would have to be released immediately.
“Therefore, the withdrawal of the PTA must be undertaken immediately. After all the Government has given an assurance to the world at large that the PTA would be withdrawn,” he pointed out.
The Northern Chief Minister told the President that the “tremendous expectations and hopes our people (the Tamils) placed in Your Excellency seem to be eroding in recent times and Your Excellency must take note of their feelings not only for political reasons but also for ethnical and humanitarian reasons. I am sure Your Excellency will not let down our people.”
“Your government came into power inter alia with the goodwill and franchise of our people. Your Government opined that the PTA must be withdrawn, that Political Prisoners must be given an Amnesty, that immediate steps must be taken to inquire into the fate of missing persons and so on. But the Office of Missing Persons is presently only in name. It has no teeth. Even if it starts functioning in earnest, the Panel of Inquirers cannot take effective steps against military suspects. They need to forward their views to the courts, consequently resulting in heavy delay,” Wigneswaran pointed out.