CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 March 2019

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Reality of post-war Sri Lanka

 

HONG KONG (SE): Despite the rhetoric coming out of the mouth of the Sri Lankan government in Colombo, priests and Church personnel report that somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 people, who were picked up in 2009 and accused of having links with the banned Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), remain in detention.

The Tamil Tigers was a separatist militant organisation based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people.

This campaign evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the Tamil Tigers organisation was defeated by government forces.

When hostilities were declared to be over in 2009, the government arbitrarily detained thousands of people for what it termed rehabilitation. Most still remain in detention camps without access to lawyers, courts or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Centre for the Progress of Peoples reported on October 24 that it believes there is evidence of secret detention in the north.

Officials say that 700 to 800 people have been detained who have been identified by the state as hardcore members of the Tamil Tigers and are being held separately.

They claim that their cases will be investigated by the authorities for possible prosecution.

Hundreds more are being held without charges in police lock-ups and southern prisons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency regulations. Some have been detained for years.

Balasingam Jeyakumar is a typical case. A farmer, he was picked up in 2009. Married in 2005, he lived with his wife and two sons, aged six and three, in Puthukkudiyiruppu.

For five years he worked for the Tamil Tigers, providing food and other commodities, but had little other connection with the separatist organisation.

During the final stages of the war, the army called all those who were working for or had any connection with the Tamil tigers to surrender themselves, with the assurance that they would be registered and released within a few days.

Jeyakumar surrendered at Omanthai camp. He was detained at the Gamini Sinhala Vidyalaya and then shifted to Rambakulam Maha Vidyalaya, before ending up at Ullupukulam in Vavuniya.

He was immediately transferred to the Omanthai Rehabilitation Camp.

The Centre for the Progress of Peoples says his family presumed that he would be released after the rehabilitation programme, as assured by the army, but then he was sent back to Omanathai and from there to Boossa.

Because he surrendered himself and completed the rehabilitation programme, people were surprised when he was summoned before a magistrate and sent to the Colombo Remand Prison, where he languishes to this very day.

His wife and two sons were detained at the Chettikulam Camp until October 10 this year. She is now living with her mother at Puthukkudiyiruppu.

They have been resettled, but have no income and are totally dependent on support from well wishers.

The two sons are at school. Jeyakumar’s wife cannot visit him. The couple cannot understand what happened or why Jeyakumar was not released after the stipulated period of rehabilitation, as promised by the government.

Furthermore, Jeyakumar has never been charged, but is still in prison. It is also believed that he was inhumanly treated and tortured at the Omanthai Camp.

He is due appear in court in November.

 

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