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Sri Lankan police block march by families of disappeared

Angry scenes as attempt to present petition is turned away

<p>Police turned out in force to prevent the marchers from reaching the government secretariat</p>

Police turned out in force to prevent the marchers from reaching the government secretariat

  • ucanews.com reporter, Vavuniya
  • Sri Lanka
  • September 1, 2014
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Police prevented relatives of disappeared Tamils from staging a protest march in Vavuniya town to mark International Disappearance Day on Saturday August 30.

Shouting slogans against the government and military, the marchers gathered with the aim of handing in a petition at the town’s government secretariat.

But Achuthanaayar Eezham Cheguevara, co-secretary of Citizen Committee of Vavuniya said the police blocked their route.

This led to an angry confrontation and the marchers’ attempt to take another route to the secretariat was foiled by more police blockades.

A.S.P. Somerathna of Vauniya police claimed that the march was stopped because the organizers had not sought official permission for it.

After heated discussions and an attempted sit-in on the road, the protesters had to content themselves with handing the petition to MP Mavai Senathirajah as a representative of parliament.

Both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been accused of widespread human rights violations in the final stages of the 26-year civil war which ended in May 2009.

Achuthanaayar Eezham Cheguevara described the anguish of the families of the disappeared, who have so far failed to force an effective investigation into the abuses.

“Even five years after their pain, frustration and fear continue. It is a frustrating and painful journey, often ending up feeling powerless and helpless,” he said, adding that victims’ families should feel free to give evidence to any UN inquiry without fear of government intimidation or obstruction.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said earlier in August that visas would not be granted to UN investigators. He has consistently maintained that Sri Lanka can conduct an investigation independently.

His own investigative committee, which was set up in 2010, has been variously described as “flawed” and “toothless” by prominent critics including UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay and Amnesty International.

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