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Sri Lanka arrest for missing son's campaigning mother

F R I D AY 14 MARCH 2 14 !a"en#eran $a%ak&mari campaigne# to fin# her son' (ho (ent missing #&ring Sri Lanka's ci)i" (ar* +o( she herse"f has ,een arreste#' a"ong (ith her 1-.%ear.o"# #a&ghter*

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Last November, when Jon Snow accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron to the former war zones in the north of Sri Lanka, he was mobbed by crowds of desperate mothers pleading for his help - for any help - in the desperate search for their missing loved ones, writes Callum Macrae. Among them was a woman called Balenderan Jayakumari. Then, just four wee s ago, !rs "aya umari warned that she was being followed and harassed as a result of her campaign to find out what happened to her last remaining son - one of #ri Lan a$s thousands of disappeared. %esterday she was arrested along with her &'-year-old daughter and charged under #ri Lan a$s terrorism laws. "aya umari has had a tough life. #he had three sons and one daughter. The eldest was shot dead by un nown gunmen during the war. (er second son died during the latter stages of the war. (er third son, the youngest, !ahindan appears to have been forcibly conscripted as a &)-yearold child soldier by the Tigers in the final stages of the war. /' missing *n +,,-, at the end of the war, "aya umari was told that, li e many thousands of other LTT. fighters, her son had surrendered. That was the last she and her daughter heard of him. The government denied all nowledge of him. (e became just one of the thousands of missing. #ri

Lan a has over /,,,, listed as missing - and many others who are not listed. 0nly Iraq has a larger number of disappeared. "aya umari and her daughter approached the authorities - and they denied all nowledge of him. They did not hold him, they insisted. Stories of intimi#ation a,o&n# . an# those (ho testif% #o so in the kno("e#ge that there is no (itness protection scheme* 1ut then a photograph appeared in a government report. The caption said it showed former LTT. fighters in a government rehabilitation centre. Among the prisoners was "aya umari$s son. #ince then, in a country where to spea out is very dangerous, "aya umari and her daughter have ta en every opportunity to shout cry and plead to have !ahindan. 2hen 3avid 4ameron visited "affna during the 4ommonwealth heads of government summit, they were there - though police prevented them getting anywhere near. 1ut as the prime minister left, they managed to brea away, along with dozens of desperate weeping relatives, and made their desperate plea directly to the remaining journalists before they too were bundled away. The government of #ri Lan a claim they are investigating the thousands of disappeared. They say they have a commission of in5uiry which will get to the truth of what happened. 1ut stories of intimidation abound - and those who testify do so in the nowledge that there is no witness protection scheme for those who spea out. Draconian "ega" regime Now "aya umari has been subjected to a detention order under the prevention of terrorism act. #he could be held indefinitely under #ri Lan a$s draconian legal regime. (er daughter is in protective custody. Last month she sent me a video appeal. This is what she said6 78n nown faces follow me and trac me whenever * return home after protest rallies. This is a serious threat and at time * am scared to live here. * go for all these protests, shouting from the streets for my son$s release. Lot of people are ta ing photographs of us, * do not now all of them. 7* have been followed on several occasions. * am living in this village with my daughter. #o, sometimes we are terrified to live here. * give this interview to the 4hannel 9 wholeheartedly to come out with my plight.7 In#efinite process This afternoon the #ri Lan an foreign minister, :rofessor ;L :eiris, attended a press conference to discuss the proceedings at the 4ommonwealth ministerial action group, which ended today in London. #ri Lan a, of course, is currently what is nows as 7chair in office7 of the 4ommonwealth. That means #ri Lan a should be ta ing the lead in defence of core 4ommonwealth values such as freedom of e<pression. 4uriously, the 5uestion of the serious allegations against the #ri Lan an regime was not discussed. 0nkno(n faces fo""o( me an# track me (hene)er I ret&rn home after protest ra""ies*Balenderan Jayakumari 1ut we did as him about the arrests and where these stood, given the 4ommonwealth$s core

values. (e said that he could not comment until the evidence had been e<amined. 7This will happen in due course. There is judicial scrutiny. And * thin it is very wrong to come to a conclusion before the facts are loo ed at objectively and in depth.7 The problem is that in #ri Lan a, under the prevetion of terrorism act, 7judicial scrutiny7 can be an indefinite process. Callum Macrae is a ournalist and director o! "o #ire $one% &ou can !ollow 'Callum(Macrae on Twitter