Skepticism over the OMP
On 24.08.2019, the Office of Missing Persons, more commonly known as OMP, will open its Jaffna Office. In normal circumstances all Sri Lankans would welcome the move since it gives access to the OMP to the relatives of the missing. But there is widespread skepticism despite the OMP’s good leadership under Saliya Pieris, PC.
Thuraisingam Jeeva, LTTE Fighter
I came across evidence affirmed by witnesses that there is at least one person who has been secretively held prisoner since 2 July 1995, proving the governments to have been untruthful in saying there are no political prisoners.
Working with reporter N. Lohathayalan I pieced together the story of Thuraisingham Jeeva in Colombo Telegraph (11.11.2018). Born in 1970, he is from Mulliyavalai in the Mullaitivu District. He left the LTTE at some point and got married to Mullairanee and entered the trading business to make ends meet. He would travel regularly to Vavuniya to buy goods to be sold in the Vanni, and return home.
Jeeva’s father lost his life in the last war in Mullivaikal and his mother died in the Resettlement Centre at Menik Farm in Chettikulam without proper treatment. One of their two children also died of brain fever during the war for lack of medicines. Mullairanee now lives in Mulliyavalai with her second child, working as a labourer.
Jeeva was 26 years old when he went missing. Twenty three years later, news of him reached Mullairanee when she had given up all hope and had no more energy to look for him: “Your husband is in the Anuradhapura jail” said a Mullaitivu man who had been with him in jail. This man had been convicted of illegally transporting trees from Mullaitivu and jailed in Vavuniya. From his jailhouse he had been taken to Anuradhapura jail for a few days to do some labour. Their common Mullaitivu origins got him speaking to Jeeva who had communicated his family details and home address. After his release he contacted Mullairanee through Jeeva’s brother Ananthi.
Mullairanee thought it was a cruel trick for some nefarious purpose. Eventually, after hearing the correct date of disappearance, 23 years-old family details, etc. she began to take the news seriously. The now hopeful Mullairanee went to the Human Rights Commission in October 2018 and filed a report working through translators calling for Jeeva’s release. The HRC officer also got very energized and asked Mullairanee to come with the fellow prisoner who had seen Jeeva. On 26 October 2018 the man had gone to HRC with the documents showing where in Anuradhapura he had been held and testifying how they had met, and the conversations that had taken place.
Jeeva’s second child, a female, was a seven-month old infant when Jeeva disappeared. She is a 23-year young lady today. She is trembling with expectation to see her father for the first time since she cannot remember him.
Other Missing Persons
Evidence is now emerging of those disappeared in 2009 while their presence in custody was denied by our governments. Vinayahan was a top LTTE Intelligence-wing Commander who took off to India just weeks before the war ended. His wife and three children crossed military lines around 18 March 2009 and vanished. In 2016 his wife and three children were brought to her parents’ house in Varani by the army and dropped off. Their house where Vinayahan worked and lived in Kilinochchi is occupied by the forces. The three children had not been provided with schooling for 7 years. The youngest cannot read or write.
Like this a few more who are missing are known to be hidden in various places. Soldiers are offering to release them for large sums of money. These incidents are occurring from the time they disappeared to this day. There are those who have offered money and got their loved ones released while others have been cheated.
Early this year, in the Kilinochchi District’s Thiruvai Aaru, an offer was successfully made to release a detainee on payment of money. Details on sums paid are available but we have been asked not to release them because of fears for their safety.
Mullairanee adds, “It was in this state that after searching far and wide for Jeeva without success that I went to Vavuniya to seek Jeeva. There some members of PLOTE told me that he was taken away because of his involvement in the Central Bank bombing.” This cannot be she says because Jeeva was arrested in 1995 while the Bank was bombed in 1996. Is this false suspicion what makes the government keep Jeeva locked up to this day in revenge?
Mullairanee is certain that those responsible for the kidnapping of Jeeva are of the PLOTE which had Vavuniya as its base and worked in close collaboration in unlawful activities with the army. Even at the time of Jeeva’s kidnapping, PLOTE members in Vavuniya, she says, confided in her that the PLOTE was behind the abduction and she should go to the White House in Vavuniya (where the PLOTE leaders were holed up). On this basis she went to the White House to ask for Jeeva, but they had threateningly responded, “Who told you we took him? Bring them to us to see if this is true.” Mullairanee says she did not want what happened to her befalling the wife of her witness so she did not reveal the name of her witness.
Anonymous security personnel have been questioning Lohathayalan on the phone and threatening him after his Colombo Telegraph article. As a reporter his phone is set to record all calls but these calls are not recorded. The number that shows up like 112 and 110 cannot be traced. They asked him about his connection to me since I had used information he obtained through RTI requests in my articles. Their tentacles run deep into our society.
Waffling to Cover Up
I reported this story of Jeeva’s to OMP as a complaint. I sent reminders on 13 November 2018 and again on 29 Jan. 2019. To the latter I got a prompt reply from Saliya Pieris: “Dear Prof. Hoole, There has been follow up on this. Unfortunately I cannot share the information with you for reasons of confidentiality as per the law. However we will be in touch with the family soon.”
No one has been in touch with Mullairani up to today, 7 months later. Today (20 Aug.) she said she had gone to the OMP’s Colombo office about 2 months ago and was told that there is no one like that at the prison she named. She responded “I brought you a witness who had seen him and you are denying having him. There is no point in coming to you.” There is no point indeed, it seems.
A pattern is clear. Sri Lanka is under pressure from the UNHRC to keep its commitments under Resolution 30/1 of 2015. The government is reluctant and every time the UNHRC sessions are round the corner, a charade is put on to escape solemnly undertaken obligations. The next sessions, the 42nd Regular Sessions, are scheduled for 09-27 September 2019. Isn’t the coincidental opening of the OMP Office on 24 August a part of the usual charade? It is merely one scene in a large drama being put on by our government. The AG has instructed that the cases against the accused of murdering the Trinco 5 be accelerated. After 27 September, the accused, I am confident will be discharged as before because that would garner votes at the presidential elections in November or December.
Should Saliya Pieris ruin his good name in participating in the charade that is OMP? A charade by the government to deny its own minorities news of people who were disappeared while seeming to comply with Resolution30/1.
Je me Souviens
Elections are round the corner. Je me Souviens is the motto of Canada’s French Province of Quebec, which is emblazoned on every motorcar number-plate. It means I remember my heritage, or I will not forget what you did to me as many French Canadians say. We – all Sri Lankans — must not forget who cheated us as we go to the polls.