Relatives of Jaffna's 'disappeared' protest

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 01 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Parents and relatives of Tamil civilians who have 'disappeared' in Sri Lankan army custody staged a protest on Sunday in the premises of Jaffna's St. James Church, and vowed to continue their struggle for justice. Several hundred Tamils have disappeared after being arrested by the Sri Lankan army, which captured the Jaffna peninsula in early 1996.

Over a thousand Tamil people staged a 'satyagraha' (peaceful) protest on Sunday at St. James Church, near Jaffna Hospital road junction. They sat in the scorching sun, holding placards written in English and Tamil.

A spokesperson for the organization for the arrested and the missing said that they would stage another protest at the Perumal Temple next week, if Sunday's event did not produce any results. The Jaffna Mother's Front was also involved in the launching the satyagraha campaign this month.

A request to hold the next satyagraha at Aryakulam junction, in front of the Buddhist temple, which is patronized solely by the Sri Lankan army, was turned down. Many covert and open attempts have been made to suppress the protest movement said the spokesperson.

The campaign began at the Nallur Kandaswamy temple on September 19. The protesters say that all their efforts over the past eighteen months, to find out what had happened to their loved ones have failed. Since early July, several requests by the parents' association for an appointment with the Sri Lankan President have been refused.

Tamil civilians, primarily youth, began to disappear almost immediately after the Sri Lankan army captured the Jaffna peninsula. Amnesty International has confirmed that at least 700 Tamil people have gone missing following their detention by the Sri Lankan army in the Jaffna peninsula alone.

The Sri Lankan army is overwhelmingly Sinhalese. Since early 1996, when the Jaffna peninsula was captured by the SLA, the administration of the Tamil region has been run by the military. The international press and other observers have been banned from visiting the Tamil homelands.

The Sri Lankan government and several human rights NGOs which subtly back its agenda in the north have generally blacked out the impact this satyagraha movement is having on the political climate in the Jaffna peninsula.

 

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