Photo Credit: Sabeshwaran for Tamil Guardian

Today marks the 300th day of continuous protest by Tamil relatives of the disappeared. They have been demonstrating at various sites across the North and East of Sri Lanka to demand answers as to the fate and whereabouts of their missing loved ones, many of whom were never seen or heard from again after they moved into government-controlled territory at the end of the civil war in 2009.

We have been running a campaign in support of the families here. Earlier this week, they published an incredibly powerful open letter in which they described the deep frustration and anguish caused by the government’s continued failure to deliver on its promises to them.

As we reflect on their struggle at this milestone, we are pleased to today be joined a number of British MPs and politicians who have offered their messages of support to the protestors. The MPs have gotten behind one of their key demands: calling on President Sirisena to release a list of all those who surrendered or were detained at the end of the war.

You can read some of those messages of support below, including a statement from Paul Scully MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils.

Can you help us to reinforce them? We’re suggesting two actions:

Families of the disappeared have been waiting for truth and justice for far too long. With your help, we hope to make it as difficult as possible for the government of Sri Lanka to continue to ignore their voices.

 

Here’s what Paul Scully, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, had to say:

“Since the beginning of this year Tamil relatives of the disappeared have been protesting continuously across Sri Lanka’s North to demand answers regarding the fate of their missing loved ones. There are many individuals who have been missing since passing into government controlled areas during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war in 2009.

This week, the longest-running of those protests will have surpassed the 300-day mark, with the others soon to follow. It is a milestone which speaks to the immense bravery and courage of the families, who have continued their struggle despite the challenges of old-age, exposure to the elements and routine intimidation. But it is also one which reflects the government of Sri Lanka’s frankly shocking indifference to some of its most vulnerable and traumatised citizens. I was appalled to learn from the protestors deeply moving open letter last week, that seven individuals have passed away since the demonstrations began.

The families have made their demands very clear. Among them, they want the government to release a list – known to have been kept by the authorities – of all those who surrendered or were detained at the end of the war. Unfortunately, despite a pledge in June from President Sirisena that he would act on this key issue, little seems to have been done. Meanwhile, doubts have continued to grow among families about what the government’s long promised Office on Missing Persons (OMP) can really deliver so long as access to this potentially vital evidence is denied.

As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, I wish to extend my fullest support to the protesting families of the disappeared, and urge the government of Sri Lanka to take their grievances seriously. I have repeatedly stressed my belief that the government of Sri Lanka must speed up the pace of its reforms if it is to succeed in building a just and lasting peace and the release of this list is surely among the most urgent, yet achievable, steps that it could take.

Paul Scully MP, Chair APPG-Tamils (15 December 2017)

Photo credit: Sabeshwaran for Tamil Guardian