War victims organize in Trincomalee

[TamilNet, Sunday, 11 March 2001, 10:34 GMT]
A Sinhala fisherman who lost a limb when the Sri Lanka Navy attacked his boat in the seas off Trincomalee was elected President of an association of persons disabled due to the war that was formed in the eastern port town this week. War and torture victims in the north and east get little assistance from the Sri Lankan government, due to red tape and sheer discrimination.

Human rights activists in Colombo say that the majority of the Tamils arrested and detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations are tortured and some are raped. Very few, however, receive counseling upon release. According to Mr. N. Kandasamy, secretary of the Center for Human Rights and Development at least eighteen thousand persons, mostly Tamils, were arrested under the PTA and ER last year.

"Thousands of war and torture victims live in the Trincomalee district. But they are not coming forward to register themselves with the Family Rehabilitation Center (FRC) or any other organization in the district Between 1994 and 2000 only 510 persons affected mentally and physically by the war have registered their names with us, seeking relief and assistance." said Ms Shanthi Tharmaretnam, the FRCís field officer in Trincomalee.

The FRC is an organization working with victims of torture and people disabled due to the war.

Mr. Ubaithullah, a muslim fisherman who lost both his hands in a bomb explosion learning to write at the FRC program.Photo:TamilNet
When asked why many of war and torture victims are not coming forward to register, she said, "the majority of the victims live in remote villages and some in areas that are not under the armyís control. Most of them do not possess national identity cards and other documents to prove that they were subjected to torture or lost their limbs due to the war or were released from detention. We need these documents to register them in our office. As they are unable to produce these documents, they do not come forward to register their names with us".

"The Grama Sevakas (village officers) working in rural areas can help these victims by supplying documents they need. But the Grama Sevakas are reluctant to involve themselves in this humanitarian problem", says Ms Shanthi Dharmaretnam.

The Family Rehabilitation Center has now formulated a scheme to hold seminars for the rural government officials to make them prepare lists of war victims in their areas, she said.

She said this was the first time war victims had formed an organization in the district to air their grievances to the authorities.

The President of the association, Mr.W. M. Senaka Weeraratna, father of three, lives in Uppuveli in Trincomalee. He was wounded and disabled when a Sri Lanka Navy gunboat attacked his fishing boat in 1997.

The Secretary of the Association is Mr. K. Selvendran who had lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion. Mr.N. Muhunthan, newly elected Treasurer had lost one of his legs in a landmine explosion.

Mr. Ubaithullah, a muslim fisherman who lost both his hands in a bomb explosion was among those enrolled as members of the association.


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