32 Years Of Search & Agony With No End In Sight: The Fate Of Missing Persons (158) From Refugee Camp At Eastern University, Vantharumoolai On September 5, 1990 Continues To Be “Unknown”
When will I have to stop these writings of my memories of September 5, 1990 and the associated pains that runs in me but more on the families of the missing and its generations. When I watched the Schindler’s List movie little did I realize that we may have to do a movie on a ‘Vantharumoolai List’ of the fate of 158 which continues to be unknown.
The politics of Sri Lanka was embarrassingly highlighted when the Aragalaya asked the 225 to step down and also acknowledged that we had been cheated by the rulers for the past 74 years. It is not any less to highlight that over the past 32 years since September 5, 1990 there had not been a trustworthy answer or approach by the state to the missing people of that refugee camp or to those who went missing during the period of war in any other part of the country. More than 1000 days have passed since the protest in Jaffna over similar issues and the government seems completely oblivious to these. They seem to have higher priorities of finding out who utilized the pool of the President during the Aragalaya and other such matters.
Today’s newspaper headlines when read indicated that are more deaths (murders and assassinations) in the country at present but the Police was too busy tracking those charged under Aragalaya and associated events. Even after 74 years of Independence the state does not seem to have its priorities, when if ever, the missing people will have their turn to have an answer for their losses?
As we approach the Geneva meetings, the question in the minds of the family and its generation is that ‘whether we will have answers to our simple question, what happened to my relative, friend, partner or other, who went missing, especially when known have been taken by the state machinery of Sri Lanka. Those who had been involved had been named and listed in the Presidential commission report nearly 25 years ago, where Justice Palakidnar chaired the mission. No one knows or are aware that any of those listed in the document as the party related to the missing have been summoned or questioned in relation to it. Lamps are lit each year and people mourn the loss of their loved ones, when will it end? There had been a saying that ‘God sees the truth but waits’ yet it seems even unfair for God to wait so long.
We see that the country is calling for multiparty government to overcome the crisis which is welcome. The same call for unity of the communities was seen at the Aragalaya, and may be it is time that the grievances of the communities are settled/ accommodated so that Sri Lanka could walk a new path, away from the ethnic and religious politics that had ruined the country socially, ecologically and economically for sure. Neither can you climb Mount Everest with too much baggage nor go to heaven /or obtain peace with loaded unanswered questions of sins or impurity. Impunity may be granted by the governments but not by thy self. My submission is that it will eat from within like corrosion and one day you will submit to it sooner or later.
I represent the feelings and wishes of 158 plus 18 of the Vantharumoolai refugee camp where I was Officer in Charge and all happened in front of my eyes, but also share the similar feelings of many more thousands all over the island of Sri Lanka, and wish their prayers to find an answer that is heard sooner than later. Many who had asked had already left the point of questions and the next generation has taken over its task and wish they have the answers; I do not know how long can I raise THIS QUESTION ?
After the Aragalaya led to governmental change, those who have taken over the government act as if it is business as usual, clamoring for governmental office and the power to hand out political patronage to their friends, relatives and supporters. So long as the protests, pleas and lamentations of the Sri Lankan people are ignored, and God remains patient, it is to Geneva that one may forced to turn once again, even though that may not be our preferred option, but internal.
*The author was Vice Chancellor of Eastern University and Professor of Botany. He is now an Attorney at Law appearing for victims of human rights violations. In 1990, he was officer in charge of the Vanthuramoolai refugee camp, having lost his own home.