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An Exceptional Collapse of the Rule of Law: Told through stories by families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka

An Exceptional Collapse of the Rule of Law:
Told through stories by families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka
......
Publishers: Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Hong Kong and Families of the Disappeared, Sri Lanka

Pages: 202
ISBN: 962-8161-06-7

Press Release

(Hong Kong, October 26, 2004) They may have disappeared and killed some 15 years ago, but to their families and loved ones the memories of them will live on.

"Even if I get millions of rupees, I will not forget all these dreadful memories. Until today I do not permit anyone to light fireworks and organise parties at our residence as we are still mourning the loss of our child," says M. Maria Violet, whose son was forcibly taken away from home at gunpoint. 

Violet's son was later killed. Her horrible experience is documented in a new book released on Tuesday, which is a testimony to the sufferings shared by tens of thousands of Sri Lankans during the dark age of the country in the late 1980s. 

The book, An Exceptional Collapse of the Rule of Law: Told through stories by families of the disappeared in Sri Lanka, details the ordeals of parents, spouses and relatives who witnessed forced disappearance of their dear and near ones in 29 cases.

The victims included innocent students, workers and ordinary people of other professions.

They were among 30,000 people forcibly disappeared between 1988 and 1992 when perpetrators, mainly the police and armed forces, had absolute impunity for their acts of violence and brutality. Nearly 15 per cent of the victims were aged below 19.

People were abducted from homes, workplaces and on the streets, even openly and publicly. Many of them were murdered upon arrest, interrogation and torture.

The perpetrators, unleashed and sanctioned by an authoritarian rule and constitutional dysfunction, acted gruesomely and casually in the excuse of an armed conflict between the then government led by the United National Party, and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People's Liberation Front).

In many cases, the victims were killed because of jealousy, personal feuds or elimination of political enemies or potential opponents in the reign of terror.

After all these years, the perpetrators have still yet to be brought to justice and all attempts to find legal redress to innumerable cases of the disappeared have proved futile. 

In the 222-page new book published by the Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and its sister organisation Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), together with Sri Lanka's Families of the Disappeared, families of the victims indicate the legal framework that made such atrocities possible is essentially unchanged.

"By telling their stories, these families are breaking the silence about the most fundamental aspects of Sri Lankan society. Many today want to keep silent about these events for various reasons. These families, however, cannot afford to remain silent," said Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC. 

"They are the voices of the huge number of people who have experienced the crisis that has enveloped the country in its most horrible form; a crisis shared by all, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity," Fernando said.

The life of the entire family of a disappeared victim was affected since that fateful moment of abduction - savings were spent frantically dashing around the country trying to find their loved one, parents lost interest in their jobs, the education of the young ones at home was disrupted.

The past, present and future of these families are tormented by those responsible for the disappearances.

"We, as Sri Lankan people, are now mentally suffering and will thus suffer for the rest of our lifetime because we have lost our son. My fervent prayer is that no other family faces the same plight which we are facing by losing our son," B. Carolis Silva, father of a 26-year-old victim, says in the book.

"I have lost confidence in the procedures of law enforcement in Sri Lanka. Most of the law enforcement officials implement the law in accordance with the wishes and plans of various party leaders in our country…In short, democracy here in Sri Lanka has been restricted to a piece of paper. Thus, justice for me is to change the current system," Silva says.

To order

In Hong Kong: Send a cheque or demand draft for HK$ 150 for soft cover (or HK$ 250 for hard cover) payable to "Asian Legal Resource Centre Ltd." to the ALRC, 19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building, 998 Canton Road, Mongkok, Kowloon.

In Sri Lanka: Send a cheque for SLRs250 (or SLRs500 for hard cover) (includes postage) payable to "Right to Life", to Families of the Disappeared, 555 Colombo Road, Kurana, Katunayaka. Tel: +(94) 314 870 308, Email: right2life@sltnet.lk .

In other countries: Send a cheque or demand draft for US$ 30 for soft cover (or US$ 40 for hard cover) (includes postage) payable to "Asian Legal Resource Centre Ltd." to the ALRC, 19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building, 998 Canton Road, Mongkok, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. Books could also be purchased online through the AHRC's web website: www.ahrchk.net 

For orders and enquiries: Email books@ahrchk.net, or call Louise Sun at +(852) 2698 6339.

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