The wounds of the civil war still exist today. In addition to soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the motherland, there were large number of families living in the North and the East that became victims of Asia’s longest civil war. Out of those who sacrificed their lives are missing persons who were taken away by different groups. In an interview with the Dailymirror, Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingham, officer in charge of the Vantharumoolai refugee camp in 1990, recalled how people were taken away from the camp and are still missing. Excerpts are as follows:
Q What exactly happened that day?
This is an incident that took place 25 years ago on September 5, 1990 and I am still reliving it. I was a senior lecturer at the Eastern University in the village of Chenkaladi had up to 10,000 families living there. Around 158 of them sought refuge in the campus. One day the Army came in, separated the males and females and checked them. Afterwards they were forced into CTB buses and taken away. The ICRC and the MSF were caretakers. I remember 28 births and 15 deaths during that time. Following this event and another shortly thereafter when 18 more were taken away, the population dissipated slowly from the camp which was closed on September 30, 1990. I was the last person to leave the premises. The problem is that up to now, nobody knows where they were taken, whether they were released or whether they were killed.
"The problem is that up to now, nobody knows where they were taken, whether they were released or whether they were killed"
Q Weren’t you told that they were released at some point?
I was told that all of them were LTTErs. Anyone can say anything. Usually people are released in front of someone but in this situation nobody was a witness except for me, Professor Mano Sabaratnam and D. Sivalingam who were, are no more. In another 20 years time I too will be dead. Who will be a witness thereafter?
Q Do you think they are alive?
I have people coming and telling me that one person is at place X, and another person is at place Y, but I have no confirmation.
"At least tell them those people were killed. The truth is bitter but at least they would make up their minds. It was not only the people who went missing, humaneness, good governance, rule of law and truth also went missing "
Q To what extent has this incident affected you?
I am traumatized as any person who went through the ordeals of the war. I wake up at night at times when memories of the camp return to haunt me in dreams.
Q What steps did you take afterwards?
I presented myself to the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in 2004. I gave them the names of all the army officers who came to the camp that day and also of the Army Major General who came to the camp three days after
the incident. When I went to the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in 2014 at the request of relatives of the people who went missing, surprisingly I was told they were not aware of it. Why is there a commission? Shouldn’t they at least bother to follow up and see what has really
happened to them?
Q What do you ask the government?
The relatives still have poojas for their loved ones for their return. They still live with a lot of hope. At least tell them those people were killed.
The truth is bitter but at least they would make up their minds. What can the government do? Pay compensation? What can they do with compensation? It was not only the people who went missing it was also humaneness, good governance, rule of law and truth that
|went missing. It is time to regain these elements or we will risk losing the trust of people forever. Reconciliation cannot take place when truth is suppressed.
Several attempts to contact the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons and the Secretary of Defence failed.
Comments - 2
sumanadasa Wednesday, 07 October 2015 03:00 PM
No wonder UNHCR wants this commission disbanded
Perinpanathan Thursday, 08 October 2015 07:08 PM
GOSL has so far not shown sincere desire to find the truth. It is no wonder why the commissions are a sham and just an eyewash. Can anyone find fault for lack of trust in GOSL, its judiciary and commissions.
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