Fasts limelight plight of Tamil political prisoners and the missing

A day long fast was observed in Vavuniya on Thursday May 24th calling for release of Tamil political prisoners and seeking information on missing kin.

Several Tamil parliamentarians, members of municipal bodies in North and East and officials of Tamil political parties attended the fast along with families of missing and in detention without charges.

Day long fast in Vavuniya – May 24, 2012

Families and relatives of missing pleaded in tears for the safe return of their loved ones during the fast.

Mother of the manager of the Multipurpose Cooperative Society in Thunukkai who was kidnapped in Vavuniya on May 25th 2006 observed the AND fast said she continues to look for her son.

Wife of Sivarajah Baheerathan who said her husband was conversing with the military for a long time after registering the family in Selvapuram but was later taken away in a military bus and not seen since.

Those representing the missing included a relative of Muralitharan (43), Muralitharan Krishnakumari, Muralitharan Sarujan (7) and Abitha (5); the relative had witnessed the family being taken away in a Sri Lanka Army vehicle in Selvapuiram, Mulaithivu on 18th of May 2009.

Fast in Vavuniya ~ pictures by-V. Athithiyan-Courtesy of: Puthinappalaki.com

The day long fast in Vavuniya occurred while 234 Tamil prisoners were on hunger strike in various parts of Sri Lanka for more than a week. Tamil women detainees and people with disability too were in the hunger strike in Colombo remand Prison.

On 24th of May Tamil Political Prisoners suspended their fast for one month after visit to Colombo remand prison by TNA parliamentarians A. Vinayagamoorthy, M.A. Sumanthiran and S. Shritharan.

Earlier the Government of Sri Lanka representatives were met with by members of Tamil National Alliance on the matters regarding the Tamil prisoners and according to TNA Media office assurances have been given for measures to take place after a period of one month – to ‘charge, rehabilitate or release’ the Tamil detainees.

The European Union had earlier this month called for a fair trial for long-term detainees in Sri Lanka.

The leader of the Tamil National Alliance also a made a special statement in Parliament on May 21st lime lighting the plight of Tamil prisoners.

Full text of the TNA leader’s speech:

“There are 234 Tamil political prisoners, who are on a hunger strike for the sixth consecutive day today. 179 of them are at the Colombo Remand Prison, 33 at Vavuniya and another 22 at Kalutara. The health condition of several of these prisoners has deteriorated drastically.

On Sunday 20th May 2012, two Members of Parliament, from my party, visited the Colombo Remand Prison and spoke to many of the fasting prisoners and appealed to them to suspend their fast until the authorities take a decision at a meeting said to have been convened for today. The prisoners have refused to call off their fast stating that several assurances given in the past have not been kept and that this time they are determined to fast unto death.

It is important to highlight this issue to this House as a matter of utmost urgency and through this to the whole country. Almost all the fasting prisoners are persons who surrendered to the security forces at the end of the armed conflict in May 2009. There are many disabled persons amongst them, despite the government’s claim that all disabled persons were released promptly, even without undergoing rehabilitation.

According to the government, over 10,000 persons who surrendered have been rehabilitated and released.

We have appreciated this approach and are grateful to the government for this move. However, inexplicably, many hundreds still remain in custody. Some of them have undergone rehabilitation and even possess the IOM certificate in that regard. But, they have been arrested at the point of release and have been incarcerated without any charges being preferred against them.

We note that while many leaders of the LTTE, upon their readiness to cooperate with the government, have effectively been pardoned and enjoy positions in government and attendant perquisites from the State, these prisoners are being deprived of their liberty for so long, while their families are on the verge of starvation due to the fact that the bread-winner is in prison.

We call upon the government to take immediate steps to release all the Tamil political prisoners since three years have lapsed after the armed conflict ended. We also request that proper responsible assurances be given to the fasting prisoners in their regard forthwith so that they may decide to suspend their hunger-strike.”

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