New questions about wartime and post-war disappearances in Sri Lanka emerged following a bombshell revelation that the Government hs only 273 political detainees in its custody. Families of the disappeared believed the numbers are much higher. This announcement also hardens doubts if a Sri Lankan-led judicial process into mass atrocities, such as disappearances, will bring justice to the victims.
JHU General Secretary and a front-liner of the common Opposition movement, Patali Champika Ranawaka today challenged the Rajapaksa regime to clarify the crimes that are being probed and punishments that would be meted out on those found guilty of war crimes by the Presidential Commission on Disappearances.
“Staff from the Centre for Policy Alternatives have been at the inquiry hearings and say there are serious problems. The organisation claims that military and intelligence officers have been intimidating witnesses by questioning and photographing them as they arrived to give evidence.”
“On 4th August, I was at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR), along with some other human rights defenders, lawyers, clergy and diplomats. CSR is located in the premises of a Catholic church in the heart of Colombo. We had gathered for a “listening and sharing” meeting with some families of Tamil disappeared persons. It was a small, invitation only, private gathering. Just when some families had started to share their pains and struggles, a mob including some Buddhist Monks broke into CSR and tried to enter the meeting room where we were having the meeting. Some of us from Colombo tried to stop the mob from getting inside the meeting room and pleaded with them to leave. I saw the families of disappeared – children – men – women, had left the chairs and were sitting on the ground, cowering in fear, with some crying and some clinging on to diplomats and Catholic sisters who were present. The Police rejected our appeals to provide protection to the meeting and families of disappeared persons and disperse the invaders.”
The Advisory Council of three to the Commission on Disappearances, in international political terms, takes on the role of the only show in town for the regime in response to its international critics. It could go the IIGEP way and the arguments over war crimes will continue; the issue of disappearances though, “disappeared” in the resulting doubt and din, sound and fury.