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Sri Lanka

Families of Sri Lanka's disappeared united in grief

Event organized to coincide with International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

UCA News reporter, Kandy

UCA News reporter, Kandy

Updated: September 06, 2020 02:15 AM GMT
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Families of Sri Lanka's disappeared united in grief

The Human Rights Office and families of the disappeared sell their produce at the fair at St. Paul the Hermit Church in Digana, Kandy. 

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Family members of victims of enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka organized a market to sell their produce while exhibiting photos of the victims.

The church-run Human Rights Office in Kandy and families of the disappeared held the event on Aug. 30 at St. Paul the Hermit Church in Digana, Kandy.

K.G. Jayasundara, 70, from Manikheenna, Kandy, said family members of the disappeared brought along vegetables, fruits, bags, plants and sweets and other food.

Photos of the disappeared were posted behind each of the stalls, while family members had the opportunity to speak about their disappeared, their loved ones and explain the reason for their campaign.

"Two of my clergymen went missing in 1989. Despite various complaints, we have not received any information about them. My family is deeply disturbed by their disappearance," said Jayasundara.

"I thank Father Nandana Manatunga for initiating such a fair to encourage us."

Thousands of youths were killed during the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurrection from 1987-89. About 60,000 people were killed or disappeared during the youth-led insurrection. It was the second unsuccessful armed revolt conducted by the JVP against the government of Sri Lanka.

Relatives of the disappeared said many youths were killed in Kandy and thrown into the Mahaweli River, the longest river in the country.

R.A.J. Pathma Ranjani, 58, said her husband was abducted on Dec. 14, 1989, and she has not received any information about him.

Sujatha Menike from Alawathugoda, Manikhinna, said her husband, who worked for the Electricity Board, was abducted at night and did not return home.

"We could not find him anywhere and immediately came to the Human Rights Office to see Father Manatunga," said Menike.

"I've been under a lot of pressure for 40 years. We thank the priest for bringing this unity among us and for giving us the opportunity to soothe our grief." 

Families of victims of enforced disappearances held the event to coincide with the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Aug. 30.

Sri Lanka has a history of enforced disappearances, both during the JVP insurrection and its 26-year civil war. The island nation has the second-highest number of disappearances in the world. Thousands were killed or disappeared during the civil war that ended in 2009 when the army defeated Tamil separatist rebels.

Father Nandana Manatunga, director of the Human Rights Office, said family members had the opportunity to speak about their disappeared loved ones and explain the reasons for their campaign.

"It is a new form of campaign to strengthen their unity by organizing such a fair," said prominent rights activist Father Manatunga, who was the winner of the 2018 Gwangju Prize for human rights.

"Those families want to know the truth behind the disappearance of their relatives. Celebrating and commemorating in this manner will ensure that such tragic events do not occur in Sri Lanka again.

"It is hoped that the event will enhance the mental development of the group and encourage their lives." 

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