By Jayashika Padmasiri –
Today marks two years since the alleged abduction of the two human rights activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan who were last seen on the day before the World Human Rights Day. After this controversial abduction Lalith Weeraraj’s father, a rubber tapper working at Siri Niwasa Watte told the media that he strongly believe that the government is behind this abduction by referring to a statement made by the Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella at a press conference stating that Lalith and Kugan are in police custody, though the police authorities strongly denied this claim soon afterwards.
According to media reports the two human rights defenders Lalith and Kugan had disappeared in Jaffna on December 9th in 2011, while they were organizing a press conference for the Peoples Struggle Movement which was scheduled to be held in Jaffna on December 10th coinciding with the International Human Rights Day: according to reports Lalith and Kugan were last seen by relatives leaving Kugan Muruganandan’s house at Avarangal Jaffna at 5 p.m on December 9th.
The Propaganda Secretary of the Front Line Socialist Party (FLSP) Pubudu Jayagoda speaking about the disappearance which was later confirmed as an abduction said that Lalith and Kugan belongs to the thousands of victims who has gone missing in Sri Lanka in the postwar situation.
“We need to understand why Lalith and Kugan were abducted. They are just two other people who have been abducted from the many abductions and disappearances taking place in Sri Lanka. Abductions are taking place not only in Jaffna but also in areas such as Mattakuliya and Malligawatta. Already from the Malligawatta area 44 abduction cases have been reported. Lalith and Kugan are two people who fought against the many abductions and disappearances taking place in Sri Lanka,” Jayagoda said.
In his view during a time when the North and the South was separated from an iron wall Lalith and Kugan tried to tell the people of the South about the issues of the people in the North, and they tried to tell the people of the North that the people in the South are not their enemies but just a group of people who are suffering just like them. “During a time when the authorities wanted to separate people as Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, Lalith and Kugan fought to unite these races as Sri Lankans. That is why they were abducted,” Jayagoda added speaking about the abduction of Lalith and Kugan.
Speaking further about the politics Lalith and Kugan practiced Jayagoda said that they did not practice neoliberal politics, racist politics but instead leftist politics and that the abduction of Lalith and Kugan represents all the abductions and disappearances taking place in our country today.
This disappearance which took place on December 9th 2011 was confirmed as an abduction after considering the information provided by the wife of Kugan Muruganandan who had received certain information from reliable sources claiming that many people had seen Weeraraj and Muruganandan being abducted by a group of men on two bikes and a white van, on the Point Pedro main road in Nirveli, a village around five km from her home. The abduction of Lalith and Kugan is just another abduction from the many for the authorities in power. But for their family members the situation is different. It is not just another case or a statistic, but an extending mystery where hope and fear are eternally fighting to dominate and overpower the other. After the abduction of his son, Lailth Weeraraja’s father spoke to the media while fighting hard to stop the tears that were glistening in his eyes from falling.
“Minister Rambukwella said that my son and his friend Kugan are in the police custody and that they would be released soon after the police inquiry is over. But they are still missing. So we strongly believe that the army and the government are behind this abduction. My son was not a member of the LTTE, neither was he favoring the government. He just wanted to help people and search for those who had disappeared. I was worried about him, fearing that some misfortune might befall him, as regularly police and CID officers came looking for him. So when I thoroughly advised my son and expressed my fears, in reply he questioned me and asked, “Father how would you feel if I went missing?” And those words touched my heart. So I submitted to his wish and let him go… But just nine days after that incident, my son went missing… and now… I’m living in agony,” Lalith Weeraraj’s father explained.
The tears of a father go unnoticed most often in our society. Whether it is just tears of one father or 20 fathers (parents) belonging to Northern or Eastern provinces or any other part of the country, it is not fair to judge and to dismiss those grievances as incidents failing to reflect the loopholes existing in the country’s human rights situation. This scenario is not only common to Lalith’s father but also to those hundreds of parents and families that are dealing with the reality of the disappearances of their loved ones. Lalith’s father’s tears represent the many photographs mothers and fathers holdup during protests to make their grievances heard, while begging and pleading from authorities to find their missing children.
The Lawyer representing the two missing victims in regard to the Habeas Corpus at the Jaffna Magistrate Courts Nuwan Bopage speaking about the case said, “the matter is referred to the Jaffna Magistrate to conduct an inquiry and to find out the parties responsible for the crime. Initially we had three eyewitnesses to support our case, but now out of fear they are all refusing to appear in Courts or to give evidence. So through circumstantial evidence we are fighting the case. Lalith and Kugan were both arrested and questioned a couple of times before the abduction by both the army and the police while Lalith’s father revealed that Lalith was repeatedly warned by the army to stop doing politics in Jaffna”.
Just as Lalith’s family, Kugan’s family is also waiting for the day they would see their loved ones again. The gravity of the situation is that it is not only these two families, but many other fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers are counting days while living on hope and waiting to see the day their loved ones would return back to them again. Who is responsible for the disappearances of these people? When citizens go missing into thin air in a country, just as dust vanishes in the wind, isn’t it the responsibility of the authorities in power to find out what happened to those people? So the authorities should pay more attention and responsibility to such issues. For the family and friends of missing people, whether the wishes of seeing their loved ones returning back to them again someday would remain only as a mere dream or not, is something that only time can reveal. Nerveless the waiting of these people would continue till the missing people are found, because it is impossible to uproot people from one’s heart or one’s life as trees are uprooted and planted in this society. They will wait, till the day they find their missing loved ones or till they learn what has happened to them and where they are (which now appears as something very distant from where they stand). Nevertheless they will wait, hoping beyond hope and waiting beyond waiting, that someday this distance would disappear (as their loved ones disappeared) and that they will find out what happened to them, because they know that somewhere the mystery is hidden (and buried) deep down beneath this cold earth.