Agosto 23, 2006

Sri Lanka: Open Letter to HR Commission

This is an Open Letter written by the Families of the Disappeared to the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka on the issue of disappearances. The Chairperson had inquired about a picture published in the newspaper showing people commemorating the disappeared. The Group invites the Commissioner to find out more about the issue by visiting their officers.

Mr. P. Ramanathan - Chairperson
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road
Colombo 8

Fax: +94 11 2 694924 / 696470

Dear Mr. Ramanathan,

Re: Your inquiry from the Daily Mirror about the undated photograph of the unresolved problem of the disappearances

I write on behalf of Families of the Disappeared.

I have seen in the Daily Mirror, Justice Page on August 19, 2006, a letter written by you to the editors of that paper inquiring from them about a photo that has appeared on August 5. This photo as you have mentioned shows people standing near a monument at Raddolowa Junction, Seeduwa to commemorate the people who had disappeared. Since the photograph was taken by us and belongs to us I thought we had a right to explain to you about this picture.

This photograph is among the hundreds available within our organisation - Families of the Disappeared - depicting the tragic story of the disappearances in Sri Lanka. Having taken interest in one photograph I think it would be useful for you to look at the other photographs so that you can get an idea of the immense problem of the disappearances. You can do so by visiting our office and we will be very glad to show you these pictures.

Of course seeing the pictures is not really enough. You may also want to talk to the families who have suffered such disappearances. To begin with you can look through the library of the HRCSL for a copy of a book entitled 'An exceptional collapse of the rule of law - told through the stories by the families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka'. Families of the Disappeared have sent several copies of this book to the HRCSL free of charge. This 202 page book gives 38 stories of the affected families. It is a product of meticulous interviewing and research with the family members. The book also contains several articles about the implications of such disappearances. Since you have mentioned in your letter to the Daily Mirror referred to above that, "the article and picture give the impression to the public that they are of recent origin and not what has happened in the 1980s", after you read the stories in this book you will find that your impression is completely wrong. Since you are the Chairperson of the HRCSL (although appointed in contravention of the Constitution) it would be not proper, and certainly very damaging to the cause of the protection and promotion of human rights, if you hold onto the view expressed in your letter. For tens of thousands of families living in the South, North and East of Sri Lanka disappearances remain one of the major problems that affect their daily lives now and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

The protection and promotion of human rights requires an understanding and sensitivity about human rights violations and their implications. Violations of human rights mean the causation of suffering by agents of the state. Such causation of suffering doesn't end with the killing and disposal of the body of one person. To know the nature of this suffering it would not be enough just to read the stories contained in this book. Therefore we also suggest that you personally meet with these families and hear for yourself whether these are just stories from a by-gone era. We will be very glad to facilitate such a meeting. Just tell us when you want to do it and these people will be very happy to accommodate you and to meet with you at your convenience.

We have a further invitation for you. This is for you to attend the annual gathering of the Families of the Disappeared persons at the monument for the disappeared at Raddolowa Junction, Seeduwa. This will be held this year on October 27 and ceremonies begin in the morning and continue until late in the evening of that day. They include prayers by leaders of various religions, the laying of flowers by the family members, the Dana offered to a large number of Buddhist monks at the monument, the recital of poems by children, awarding of prizes on essays and poems written by the children and various discussions by the family members and their sympathisers. These families would really appreciate your attendance. If you wish to lay flowers in memory of a grave wrong done by the state, which yet remains to be acknowledged and corrected, you are quite welcome to do so. If any of your fellow commissioners and staff are willing to join in please bring them along.

If you look into the living problems created by disappearances you will understand how wrong it was for your commission to stop investigations into the disappearances. Perhaps it was your ignorance about the issue that led to that bad decision. Please do correct your mistake and demonstrate to the country that you really mean to do your job, which is to protect and promote human rights.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Philip Dissanayake
For the Families of the Disappeared
555 Colombo Road

Posted by marga at Agosto 23, 2006 2:28 PM | TrackBack
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