BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Relatives of missing persons noted on Monday (7) that they themselves are “joint witnesses” of their loved ones surrendering to security forces at the end of the war, and queried how the Army, therefore, could deny the evidence of those who surrendered.
Speaking to The Morning, Association for the Relatives of Enforced Disappearances Secretary Leeladevi Anandanadarajah queried how the Army could claim a lack of evidence regarding those who surrendered thus, when the relatives of the missing are joint witnesses to the same.
“We are the witnesses who saw our relatives and friends surrender. Many of those who surrendered their loved ones at the end of the war are joint witnesses. Everyone had seen other families similarly handing over their loved ones to security forces at the end of the war,” she said, adding: “When my son was being surrendered, I saw him, and the mother who was next to me saw him too. Similarly, I too saw her son being surrendered. Therefore, we are joint witnesses. If it is about one person, they can assume that it is a lie, but we are joint witnesses and this is regarding a number of persons. How can they deny it? We will appeal to the international community.”
Former Northern Province Minister of Women’s Affairs and Rehabilitation and Eela Thamilar Suyatchi Kazhagam (Eelam Tamils Self-Rule Party) Leader Ananthy Sasitharan, whose husband was alleged to be a former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) commander and was surrendered by her to security forces at the end of the war, told The Morning: “Recently, many Government representatives including Ministers have mentioned on occasion that there is no evidence for those who were surrendered to security forces during the end of the war. I have filed a writ of habeas corpus in December 2012 to the Vavuniya High Court (HC) and the hearings took place at the Mullaitivu High Court. I surrendered my husband to security forces. It was not only me as there were others who handed over their loved ones. How can they say that there is no evidence of those who surrendered?”
She further noted that she had provided submissions to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2009, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the United Nations Panel headed by Yasmin Sooka and the Paranagama Commission in regard to the surrendering of her husband.
“We are speaking the truth. We handed over our loved ones to security forces at the end of the war. We are not trying to make the Government unpopular. I have filed a case. I have taken legal action and the judgement is due this month,” she added.
Speaking to The Morning, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Media Spokesman President’s Counsel (PC) and Opposition MP M.A. Sumanthiran said that the evidence is in those who surrendered their relatives themselves.
“This had been recorded in the LLRC report, which is a Government Commission itself, saying that there is evidence of a little over 3,000 people being surrendered in the last few days of the end of the war. This is not the whole number but that is what the LLRC says,” he noted.
“For the Army to come now and say that nobody surrendered is an absolute joke. Some even surrendered in the presence of the ICRC. This, along with the Office on Missing Persons Chairman saying nobody surrendered, is the reason why we have continuously said that the investigations must be international. On one side is the LTTE and on the other is the Sri Lanka Army – when you have two sides involved in a war, and if there are allegations of wrongdoing, they must be investigated independently. For it to be independent, it cannot be one of the two factions that investigates it. It has to be an entirely independent body. In this situation, if it is to be independent, it must necessarily be an international mechanism.”
Meanwhile, when an appeal was taken up before the RTI Commission, the Army’s Designated Officer under the Right to Information (RTI) Act Brigadier N.K.N.K. Nagahawatte stated that LTTE fighters did not surrender to the Army, but that internally displaced persons had.
Journalist D. Nirosh Kumar had made a request under the RTI Act seeking information pertaining to the number of LTTE fighters who surrendered to the Army, the officials who supervised such incidents, the number of LTTE fighters who were arrested during the last period of the war, and the officials who supervised such arrests.
As the Information Officer of the Army had not provided him with the information, Kumar had later filed an appeal with the RTI Commission, and the relevant appeal was taken up on 3 November.