By Dharisha Bastians
Family members of disappeared persons, who began a hunger strike in Vavuniya earlier this week, called off their fast on Thursday after State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene intervened and promised that the issue would be discussed at a meeting in Colombo on 9 February.
A hunger strike by families of the disappeared entered its fourth day in Vavuniya yesterday, with Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran urging President Maithripala Sirisena to intervene and end the crisis.
The health of at least five fasting members had deteriorated since the protest began.
“They need to be hospitalised, their blood sugar levels have dropped, but they are resisting medical support,” S. Sivamohan, Tamil legislator from Vavuniya told The Hindu over telephone.
According to him, 14 persons gathered at the venue were on a “fast unto death”.
The families called off their protest after Minister Wijewardene assured them in writing that a meeting would be held at Temple Trees early next month, with a high level 16-member Government team, including the Law and Order Minister, the Inspector General of Police, the Justice Minister and representatives of the Attorney General Department.
Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan had offered to travel to Vavuniya on Saturday to resolve the crisis and end the hunger strike.
However, the condition of the protestors was deteriorating too rapidly for an intervention to be delayed until the weekend, prompting the Government to dispatch Minister Wijewardene to resolve the issue instead.
Desperate for some answer from the Government, the strikers sat on a platform opposite the Vavuniya post office without any food or water since Monday (23).
Speaking to Daily FT, disappearances activist Ruki Fernando said the protestors had expressed deep frustration at the beginning of their fast, that years of protests, petitions, complaints and testimony had yielded no answers.
By launching a hunger strike, families of the disappeared show how desperate and helpless they remain in their search for justice, said Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International’s South Asia Desk, who is currently in Sri Lanka.
“In August last year the government promised to establish an Office on Missing Persons but this has not yet materialised. This morning activists informed Amnesty International that the health of the hunger strikers in Vavuniya is rapidly deteriorating.
The government must respond to this anguish by sharing concrete steps of how it plans to operationalise the Office of the Missing Persons and help families find the truth about their loved ones,” Foster told Daily FT.