Street protests yesterday in Colombo reflected growing anxiety about the disappearance of dissidents following the apparent abduction of two activists last week.
Activists joined relatives of ‘disappeared’ and political prisoners to demand that authorities release suspected inmates long held in custody without being charged at unknown destinations throughout the island.
More than a thousand protesters carried photos and placards and called for an end to disappearances and for the release of political prisoners.
Political and rights activists Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in Jaffna on December 13, shortly after organising a press conference to publicize the protest by the Movement for People’s Struggle in Colombo.
Arumugan Weeraraj, 53, father of one of the activists, was among the protesters.
“My son faced threats due to his human rights campaigns. He worked on disappeared and political prisoners. And he worked for reconciliation between Tamil and Sinhala communities,” said Weeraraj, a Catholic from the archdiocese of Colombo.
“We need to pressure the government to release the prisoners,” he said.
A cabinet spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella, told the media at a cabinet briefing that Weeraraj and Muruganandan were not missing. They had not been detained unlawfully, he said, and if they were being held by the police or military they would be produced before a magistrate and dealt with according to the law.