Civil War, Disappeared, Documentary Photography, High Contrast, Justice, Justice in Transition, Memory, Monochrome, Pain and Memory, Photography, Politics, Reconsiliation, Religion, Social Justice, Sri Lanka, Waruni Anuruddhika
The monument for disappeared at Radolugama, Sri Lanka.
It was the 27th National commemoration day for the disappeared. The event was organized by the families of the disappeared together with the organization call Right to Life and many others groups and individuals. They gathered at the monument of disappeared at Raddolugama on the 27th of October 2017. The monument stands on the ground where two young men, Ranjtih Herath & Lional were killed and burned on the same day of October in 1989.
Family members of disappeared gathered at the monument to commemorate their loved once. Their faces were sad. most of them were elderly mothers and fathers from North and East of the country. They laid a writhe of flowers at the monument without knowing about what exactly happened to their beloved once. Even if they knew that their beloved ones have disappeared, the commemoration is being considered as a part of seeking justice. Perhaps they may know that they are dead or they might be still alive, but family members need to know what happened them and how and why they disappeared. Such awareness is important as it is entangled with many other social, cultural, economic as well as religious expectations and fulfillment.
In the 2015 commemoration, there were many activists, photographers and journalists gathered to support the event. But most of them could not to be seen in this year. Compared to last year, there was a significant drop of the Participation of family members as well. Some of the older parents of the disappeared might have died after a long struggle of seeking justice for more than 20 years.
After the usual rituals, the event of 2017 finished in the mid-day. Crowd began to leave the place with pain and memories of unhealed wounds. The faded flowers of the garlands, blown away with dry breeze, touching the photographs of the unknown disappears.
Hundred thousand of people were abducted and killed or disappeared during the last four decades in Sri Lanka. Disappearances became a part of political violence in Sri Lankan history at least since 1970s. During the insurrection of 1989 thousands of Sinhales youth abducted, killed, disappeared or went missing forever. It came to peak during the civil war.
Even though there were number of commissions and committees were appointed to investigate the people of missing, abducted or disappeared, none of these agencies could not fulfill the task. Still we do not have accurate statistical reports of people those who were abducted or disappeared. Even though there were some agencies such as ICRC, United Nations, LLRC, UNHRC, and Asian Human Right Commission compiled a reports report data is varied one to the other. According to the report which was summited to the LLRC by Bishop of Mannar, the number of missing person during the last stage of the civil war in the period of 2008-2009 is 146,679 . According to Amnesty International, number of disappeared, abducted or missing persons since 1980 is close to 60,000. As they argued, true figures can be even 100,000. They were both Tamil and Sinhalese.
Consequences of disappearances are enormous. Those, are social, economic and cultural. Economically, there is no proper mechanism to support and develop the livelihood of those families. The 76 years old Sinhalese mother from South who came 27 time for the last commemorative events told her story with painful heart and tearful eyes . She is suffering from heart dieses. Her elder son is suffering from mental disorder. Her husbanded died when her younger son was 4 months old. She raised 7 children without support from anyone. She also became the victim of Tsunami hit in 2004. She did not receive any support from any of the government or non-government agencies. Amidst of all these tragic events in her life, she is still searching two of her missing sons.
In 2016, new government promised to establish an Office for Missing person, with an objective to provide appropriate mechanisms for searching and tracing of missing persons, and to clarify the circumstances in which such persons went missing, and their fate; the bill was approved and signed but to be materialized. Present government started to issue the certificates for 65,000 missing people who disappeared during the civil war. Some of the parents question that whether would that be acceptable without knowing the truth or without having a fair hearing and justice?
They have been the victims of each election campaigns that used by the political parties. The previous and present government hesitates to execute the investigation on security forces those who are considered as war heroes. Government is afraid that it will agitate the general public and will destroy the fame of the government. The tension of power and fame always led the country to go backward instead of going forward. In such context, justice cannot be restored easily. Yet we are demanding justice to go forward with progress …
These are the images that were captured during the 25th and 27th National Commemorative day of Disappeared in Raddolugama junction in 2015 and 2017.
Brito Fernando, A human Rights Activist addressing the gathering on the day of commemoration.
Muslim priest delivering prayers.
Pain has no ethnic boundaries – Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils, women stand together with grief
Fate of a son , pain of a mother
Son, search for his father …
Family members are holding the photos of the disappeared with a hope – mourning is not over yet…
Holding on to pain
Holding on to pain … with tears and fears … years and years …
Can that piece of paper (certificate for missing or disappeared person) tell what happened for their loved ones ?
… Holding on to pain …
Memories of a father … who can fulfill the gap of father?
Name is not important. Memories are there …
Copyright Information: Images and text of this essay are copyrighted to Waruni Anuruddhika. Using or reproducing the images or content are strictly prohebited witout having a writer permission of copyright holder. Also note that using or reprodusing images and the content for any income generation, fundraising or funded projects (personal or institutional) are strictly prohibited.