TNA parliamentarian and Attorney at law M. A. Sumanthiran says the issue of enforced disappearances in the country cannot be swept under the carpet, nor can the more recent disappearances. He observed that the issue of disappearances has not been addressed at all. According to Sumanthiran, the government could address this issue by agreeing to a credible and independent international inquiry into the disappearances that have taken place in the country over the years.
Following is the interview:
Q: The recent discovery of a mass grave in Matale has once again brought to focus the disappearances that have taken place in the country and their unaccountability. How do you view this situation?
A: This once again brings to the fore the unattended issue of accountability. The moment this discovery is made, many people are coming forward to find out if their own relatives who went missing almost quater of a century ago, were interned here. This shows that the issue of disappearances can never be put to rest without proper investigation and ascertainment of the truth. We have called for a full-scale investigation into this matter. This cannot be swept under the carpet, nor can the more recent disappearnces. No one can be allowed to get away saying: “God only knows”!
Q: Do you feel that the issue of disappearances that have taken place in the country during periods of political turmoil and war have been adequately addressed?
A: Not addressed at all. Many people don’t seem to have realised that this issue is fundamental to any reconciliation process.
Q: The TNA has also been raising this issue continuously, especially due to the situation in the North. Has there been any improvement since the end of the war?
A: No improvement at all. Our people are still going from pillar to post looking for their loved ones.
Q: What action has been taken with regard to the persons who have disappeared in the North?
A: The government has tried to bury the issue by getting an Army Board of Inquiry to say that there is not a single disappeared person in Sri Lanka. But over three thousand people have given evidence before the LLRC about their next of kin who had gone missing. Over a thousand of these have gone missing after surrendering to the security forces at the end of the war.
Q: On what grounds do you think these enforced disappearances have taken place?
A: That you must ask those who caused the disappearances. I am unable to speculate.
Q: Does the TNA have a list of the persons who have gone missing and unaccounted for?
A: We do not have a comprehensive list.
Q: What action would the TNA advocate for the government to address this issue of enforced disappearances and create accountability?
A: Agree to a credible and independent international inquiry into this issue as well as the issue of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides during the last stages of the war.
Q: Do you have faith in the current government to address these issues?
Q: What action would the TNA take in the event the government does not address these issues?
A: We will continue with our advocacy to make it happen.