A meeting for families of the disappeared from the North was cancelled after a mob led by Buddhist monks disrupted the meeting held at the Centre for Society and Religion in Colombo where Tamil families were meeting with international diplomats.The meeting ‘Listening and Sharing’ was organised by the ‘Right to Life Human Rights Centre.’
Many of the families of missing persons including from North had been invited for this discussion. After an hour from the commencement of the discussion, more than 20 Buddhist monks broke in to the meeting. Activists and journalists who were at the meeting, reported that the mob charged into the meeting and shouted abuse at the Tamil relatives of the disappeared.
Diplomats from the US, UK and the EU, including the Acting Deputy Chief of the US mission, Mike Honigstein, witnessed the incident. Condemning the incidents of mob intimidation, the Deputy Chief of the US Mission said that he would raise the issue with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, we have seen first hand what has happened today. The world has seen it as well,” Mike Honigstein further added.“I have seen firsthand the intimidation you face as families of the disappeared,” Mr. Honigstein told the family members during the disruption by the protesters. “I honor your courage to come forward and share your stories with us.”
Security officials from the US Embassy and the EU mission arrived at the Centre in Maradana as the disruption continued. Once the Police arrived, the mob continued to block the entrance of the premises, trapping civil society representatives, families of the missing and members of the diplomatic corps inside the building.
The protesters, who were pushed out of the meeting hall by police officers, blocked the exits for nearly two hours.
Making a complaint to the Police regarding the missing people’s meeting in Maradana, the monk-led group claimed human rights activists Nimalka Fernando and Brito Fernando had gathered together ‘Maha veer’ families from the north and were in the process of gathering information to hurt the Government of Sri Lanka. In their Police complaint, the group said they had the right to disrupt any “anti-national” meeting held by “traitors”.