Parents' fury at BoI's report

[TamilNet, Sunday, 26 April 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Parents of those who 'disappeared' in the Jaffna whilst in Sri Lankan army custody, accused A.T. Ariyaratne, a member of the Human Rights Commission, and founder of the NGO Sarvodaya, of also violating human rights, when he met them in Jaffna to convey that the Board of Investigation (BoI) appointed by Sri Lanka President to look into the disappearances had only listed 16 persons as having 'disappeared' during that time, said sources in Jaffna. The MPGA and international human rights organisations put the disappearances in Jaffna at around 600.

Parents who had gathered at the office of the Missing Persons Guardian Association (MPGA) at Stanley Road in Jaffna town complained that Mr. Ariyaratne was violating the rights of the parents of the disappeared when he uttered such statements, despite knowing the truth about the disappearances in Jaffna.

The parents said they had met Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga on January 16 this year and that she had acknowledged that large scale disappearances had taken place in Jaffna since the Sri Lankan army captured it.

But the BoI's report and Mr. Ariyaratne's statement diluted the horror of what had taken place in Jaffna since late 1996 said the parents.

The Chairman of the MPGA, S.Paramantham said that the BoI's statement left the parents in a dilemma as to what they should do in the future.

Sources in Jaffna said that Mr.Ariyaratne, despite being a member of the non-partisan Human Rights Commission, was seen travelling in vehicles of the Relief and Rehabilitation Authority of the North (RRAN), which is a Sri Lankan Government body.

Meanwhile, back in Colombo, Mr. Ariyaratne claimed in an interview to the Sri Lankan Government controlled Daily News that 500,000 citizens of Jaffna had placed their confidence in a sole individual - President Kumaratunga - to establish peace.

A T Ariyaratne, is used to a hostile reception. A few weeks ago, the Jaffna NGO Consortium reacted with scorn at his proposed visit to the peninsula, in his capacity as leader of Sarvodaya, which is the largest NGO in Sri Lanka.

His harsher critics say he is a manipulative charlatan keen on amassing political power and wealth via the expansion of his NGO. Ariyaratne was once perceived as a rival of President Premadasa which allegedly led to the harassment of Sarvodaya by the Government of that time.

The Board of Investigation was appointed by the President to counter widespread domestic and international condemnation of the disappearances which occurred in Jaffna after it came under the control of the SLA.

However, the BoI, which was headed by a senior officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) and comprising four senior, serving members of the security forces and the police, was criticised because it was largely seen as tantamount to an attempt by a criminal to act as the judge in his own case.


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