The International day of the disappeared was commemorated in Kandy by the Human Rights Office on the 05th of September 2015 at the Sri Pushpadana hall with around 225 participants. The parents and the family members both from north and south participated to remember their loved ones who were made to disappear during the civil war and also during the JVP insurrections in 89/90. Families from Nachchikuda and Mulankavil represented the disappeared families of the Northern Province.
The parents and family members placed flowers at the replica of the monument that was prepared at the stage, after the religious observances.
An introduction for the day's events were given by Fr. Nandana Manatunga which was followed by a lengthy explanation about the involuntary disappearances in Sri Lanka by Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando. He emphasized on the definition “involuntary disappearances” and said that there were no voluntary disappearances but the people were made to disappear and the state is accountable to all the disappearances that took place during the JVP insurrection and also during the civil war. He further said that the former government only appointed commissions but made no commitment to reveal the facts and therefore we need to campaign with the new government which has shown elements of commitment to peace & reconciliation with the proposals to setting up an office for the disappeared.
The importance of remembering such crimes to avoid repeating again and campaign to seek the truth was screened using the Gwanju uprising as an example of their fight for democracy, during which thousands of innocent youth sacrificed their lives. Further it is notable the first and the only monument was erected at Seeduwa Raddoluwa with the directions and assistance of the AHRC & the May 18th foundation of South Korea.
Following the visual presentation 04 victims shared their experiences of having lost their children & husbands, made to disappear. The shared accounts were emotional, calling the audience to campaign to call the government to provide information.
Mr. Rukshan Fernando made a presentation about the progress made since 2015 January after the presidential elections on disappearances said except some findings on Prageeth Eknaligoda, nothing has concretely taken place to find the more than 18,000 people who were disappeared during the civil war and said that we need to call the president to publicize the findings of the commissions. Speaking about the present commission, he said it lacks credibility, however people have spent time and made so much of commitment and therefore those findings cannot be just ignored. Ruki further said disappearances should be criminalized and the law should retroactive, operative with respect to past occurrences. He said that if the government is committed to work against disappearances, it should ratify the convention on disappearances and disclose the secretive detention centers. Applauding the families of the disappeared, finally Rukshan said it was the parents and the families of the disappeared who continued the struggle with so much of interventions at different levels in spite of challenges and he requested them to continue the struggle until they find the truth.
The testimony of Mayuri whose husband was made to disappear in 2013 was presented to highlight the fact that disappearances still do take place even after the end of the civil war.
A Media conference was held in the afternoon with a panel that included, Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, Fr. Nandana Manatunga, Mr. Rukshan Fernando, Mrs. Mayuri, Mrs. Jesudasan Rita and Mrs. Padma. The panel highlighted the need to reveal the truth about the people who were made to disappear and criminalize disappearances in Sri Lanka. The government should be accountable and disclose all secretive detention centers if they still exist. The victims also called to speed up trials in court and to release the PTA suspects languishing in prisons for many years and finally to repeal the PTA which is considered as a draconian law.
2015 Women’s Day in Kandy
at Bogambara - Dumbara Prison
The International Women's Day 2015 was celebrated by the Human Rights Office in Kandy in collaboration with the Prison Welfare Union at the Bogambara- Dumbara prison on the 08th March 2015 with 110 female remand and sentenced prisoners.
It was a very meaningful celebration with an exhibition & sale of the creative items made by the female prisoners.
The day’s events included inputs by Psychiatric Dr. Damith Hettiarachchi, Mrs. Surangika Ranaweera a lawyer of the HRO and by the director Fr. Nandana Manatunga who made a visual presentation and elaborated on the theme “Empowering Women –Empowering Humanity” followed by dances and a drama by the female prisoners.
Refreshments prepared by the HRO were served to all present and the gifts to the prisoners as a sign of love and sharing.
The former Mahamaya Girls College principal Mrs. Wijesinghe an official monitor to the prison, appreciated the painstaking work of the officials, in caring the detainees and requested them to consider it, not as a duty but rather as a commitment.
The drama staged by the inmates was the highlight of the day as they dramatized the reasons for their imprisonment. While accepting the reality, they visualized their regrets and repentance and hope for a better future once they are released.
The prison welfare officer Superintendent Mr. A.M.W. Bandara made the vote of thanks elaborating his experience and thanked Mrs. Wijesinghe for her sentiments of appreciation extended to the prison officials which he said would further encourage them. He thanked the HRO director & the staff for organizing 2015 International Women’s Day in Prison recognizing the importance of the female detainees. The exhibition & the sale of the creative items made by the Prisoners were declared open by Fr. Nandana & Mrs. Wijesinghe and items were sold by the prisoners.
With the Women’s day being celebrated at the Prison, the female detainees were recognized, accepted and dignified. At this occasion the HRO made few more avenues and scheduled future activities and thus openings to monitor the prison conditions and identify the detainees who need legal & other assistance.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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