30 years later
The report of the Commission of Inquiry for the Western, Southern and Sabargamuwa Provinces (CoI-WSS), the most detailed of all the reports, described the violence of 1988-1991 as a systemic and orchestrated phenomenon, in which those in political power and the law were deeply complicit. It is also unequivocal in concluding that these were not individual aberrations or transgressions, isolated incidents nor breakdown of relations between particular perpetrators and victims. What is even more remarkable is the way in which it documents the attempts by the state to not simply cover up, but to completely erase this history from what it refers to as the official annals or records (CoI-WSS 1997: 30-34)…
In this context, it is possible to understand commissions, certificates of death and compensation following the second southern insurrection as a democratic settlement or negotiation of the question of justice between women members of the Front and its convenors, as well as the Front and the state…
In the years after 1994, commissions of inquiry, became the primary modus operandi through which the Sri Lankan state would manage the fallout of mass disappearances, without having to account for them. Between 1994 and 2009, at least 8 commissions of inquiry were appointed either by a perpetrator or a successor state to deal exclusively with disappearances or as part of a broader mandate to inquire into human rights violations more generally. Over the years they became increasingly more ad hoc, half-hearted, hollowed out versions of the 1994 commission process. Many of these were closed door inquiries whose work petered out without releasing any reports or whose reports never saw the light of day in a context of continuing violence. Following the end of the war in 2009, Mahinda Rajapaksa who was then President of Sri Lanka, also appointed commissions of inquiry under pressure from local and international human rights activists, while simultaneously offering compensation to family members, provided the disappeared were registered as dead under a re-enacted RoD, all in the name of reconciliation.[x] This combination of commissions, death certificates and compensation was intended to work in tandem with the necropolitical discourse of denial of disappearances, to erase the disappeared and produce the victim survivors as docile and forgetful citizens of the state. Tamil women survivors of the disappeared have however rebuked, resisted, or subverted that effort at every turn. They have refused to build a common future together with those who have wronged them, until there is some accounting of those wrongs…
Moreover, she [Malathi de Alwis] held on to the possibility of a movement for justice across the ethnic divide, while recognising that “political communities of the sorrowing do not and cannot spring forth spontaneously and ‘naturally’; they must be made.” She believed that “for those of us who have tried all else and failed it is such Utopian re-conceptualizations and re-formulations which sustain an optimism of the will” (2009: 91).
by Chulani Kodikara, Social Scientists’ Association, Colombo, date unclear but after January 2021
In Malathi de Alwis’ analysis the southern Mother’s Front which emerged from the ruins of the second southern insurrection, demanding truth and justice for disappearances, was “the single largest women’s protest movement of its time and arguably one of the most effective in the history of modern Sri Lanka” (de Alwis 2007: 123). Their public deployment of tears and curses, in her view, marked out a crucial space—both conceptually and materially—which could circumvent the authoritarian state’s emergency laws constraining protests, demonstrations and rallies (de Alwis 1998a: 289). The Front, eventually contributed to the downfall of the incumbent United National Party (UNP) government in successive elections, including the General Elections of 1994. Thus, despite the fact that the Front was intimately associated with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which was in the opposition, despite the fact that it transgressed the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist codes of “respectability” and “domesticity” that governed women’s entry into the public sphere; and despite the fact that the ruling UNP tried its best to produce these women as bad mothers who had allowed their sons to go astray, the authenticity of their grief and anger was never in question (253). As de Alwis points out in Sinhala culture and tradition there was nothing more powerfully authentic than maternal tears, intelligible along a “continuum of maternalised suffering” (285). Even their vengeful cursing rituals were grudgingly recognised as a justified extension of their grief. Moreover, the sympathetic media coverage of the public performances of their suffering, not only called attention to the atrocities that had been perpetrated, but played a key role in steering public opinion against the government. The tears, she states “performed a double function of protest as well as inciting protest” (233-252, 270-272).
Taking as my point of departure Malathi de Alwis’ pioneering work on the Front (1998a; 1998b; 2007; 2008; 2009a; 2009b); other writings on the Front (de Mel 2001; Nesiah and Keenan 2004; Samuel 2003; Thomson-Senanayake 2014); as well as the reports of the 1994 Presidential Commissions of Inquiry on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances appointed by President Kumaratunga, here I want to revisit the Front’s legacy, 30 years after its emergence. In particular I want to explore the political and ethical implications of the Front’s struggle for truth and justice, in light of similar struggles being waged by Tamil family members of the disappeared in the north and east, at the present moment in time. I contend that although the history of the Front and the violence that catalysed it, has been all but erased from our collective memory and history, that history still weighs on our present. The film Paangshu, (so penetratingly reviewed in this edition of Polity by Prabha Manuratne) which tells the story of Baba Nona, whose son disappeared during the second southern insurrection, stands among the few exceptions to that erasure.
The Emergence of the Front
The southern Mothers’ Front was formally inaugurated in the town of Matara on 15 July 1990. At its height, it had a membership of over 25,000 women and branches in ten other districts. In Matara alone, 1500 women were elected as office bearers to coordinate activities. Its demands from the government, articulated at its first convention held in 1991, included the release of information of the whereabouts of the disappeared; the appointment of an independent commission of inquiry; the payment of compensation and the issuance of death certificates and priority treatment in allocation of state jobs and housing. The majority of women who joined the Front were from low-income peasant, trading and working-class families. Many had no prior history of participation in village level societies or experience in the public political sphere, let alone in leadership positions within their communities. But when the insurrection upended their lives, they spent weeks and months, first searching for family members in police stations and in camps. They then tried in vain to lodge formal complaints even as they “were chased away like dogs” from police stations (CoI-WSS 1997: 128). Still later they would dispatch letter after letter to an astonishing range of persons believed to be in a position of authority and able to help, from the President, the Army Commander, the Inspector General of Police, and the Joint Operations Commander, to the International Committee of the Red Cross. When there was no response, they turned to astrologers and soothsayers; and went from Buddhist temple to temple and Hindu kovil to kovil repeating their search for their family members in police stations and camps (CoI-WSS 1997; de Alwis 1998a).
The Front was not however an autonomous movement. It was convened by Mahinda Rajapaksa and Mangala Samaraweera, young opposition members of parliament. At the time of the insurrection, the SLFP had been out of political power for over 15 years and its traditional political base—the sangha, veda, guru, govi, kamkaru (native doctors, clergy, teachers, farmers and workers called the pancha maha balavegaya)—that had gathered around its Sinhala Buddhist nationalist ideology first articulated in the 1950s, had by the 1990s all but collapsed. For Rajapaksa—young and ambitious, and working as a provincial lawyer at the time—disappearances presented an unparalleled opportunity to build his own constituency in the South. He gave the Front a prominent role in the two largest political mobilisations against the UNP that he is still famed for organising—the 18 day pada yatra, (long walk) from Colombo to Kataragama and the jana ghosha (literally people noise rally) held in 1992.[i] Rajapaksa and Samaraweera also organised the two conventions of the Front held in 1991 and 1992. Chandrika Kumaratunga, announced her ambitions to enter politics at the 1991 Convention of the Front, identifying as a grieving widow herself, following the assassination of her husband, Vijaya Kumaratunga, by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) on 16 February 1988.
Addressing the Front at the 1991 convention, as a mother who “sorrowed and wept” with the family members of the disappeared, Kumaratunga stated she was capable of translating her grief into action and of building a land where “other mothers will not suffer what we suffer” (de Alwis 2008: 170). She even requested the mothers not be instrumentalised by politicians or political parties, but to “take the struggle into their own hands and make it their struggle” (Samuel 2003). On securing the political leadership of the SLFP in 1993, she not only promised to end years of state-sponsored terror and impunity, but reverse the SLFPs opposition to devolution of power under the 13th amendment and establishment of Provincial Councils.
Following the 1994 elections, in keeping with its election manifesto, the People Alliance (PA) government entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and commenced peace talks towards a negotiated settlement of the conflict. President Kumaratunga also established four Presidential Commissions of Inquiry to Inquire into the Causes of and Remedies for Involuntary Removals and Disappearances, to inquire into disappearances that had occurred after 1st January 1988, including the possibility of prosecutions where there was credible evidence implicating specific perpetrators. [ii]
The 1994 Commissions of Inquiry
Three of the commissions appointed by the PA government commenced work in March 1995 and presented their final reports to the President in July and September 1997. I contend that these commissions came closest to a truth and reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. The 1994 Presidential Commissions of Inquiry faithfully inscribed the testimonies they heard into the state record in all its detail and produced a historical record under the seal of the state, which even today bears powerful witness to this violence in the most graphic, meticulous, unflinching and damning detail. To read these reports today is in fact to be jolted by their clarity of language, attention to detail and strong and powerful critique of agents of the state. The report of the Commission of Inquiry for the Western, Southern and Sabargamuwa Provinces (CoI-WSS), the most detailed of all the reports, described the violence of 1988-1991 as a systemic and orchestrated phenomenon, in which those in political power and the law were deeply complicit. It is also unequivocal in concluding that these were not individual aberrations or transgressions, isolated incidents nor breakdown of relations between particular perpetrators and victims. What is even more remarkable is the way in which it documents the attempts by the state to not simply cover up, but to completely erase this history from what it refers to as the official annals or records (CoI-WSS 1997: 30-34).
A feature that struck us most forcefully in our inquiries was the utmost care that had been taken not only by individual perpetrators but also by the system itself to prevent these occurrences from being reflected in the official records of the country. Starting with the refusal of the local police to record complaints – which was a general feature in all three provinces, through the blatant use of vehicles without number plates, right up to the refusal to allow the bereaved to take possession of corpses identified by them let alone obtaining death certificates in respect of them, there is clear evidence of a systematic attempt to keep these deaths/ disappearances from being recorded in the official annals. (CoI-WSS 1997: xv)
The three commissions cumulatively made a large number of recommendations under three major categories, reflecting the demands that had been made by family members: prosecution and punishment; measures for rehabilitation and reconciliation; and prevention (Nesiah and Keenan 2004). Moreover, the Commission for the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces, identified suspected perpetrators in more than 2,000 cases (CoI-WSS 1997), even if their names were handed over under sealed cover and never revealed to the public.
In response to these recommendations, the government simplified the bureaucratic procedure to register those who had disappeared as dead, by the enactment of a new law —The Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provision) Act No. 2 (RoD) as amended by Act No. 58 of 1998.[iii] Family members who made use of this procedure were entitled to receive compensation. Large numbers of family members did avail of this law. By September 1999, a total of 410 million rupees were paid as compensation to 12,242 families of the disappeared, with compensation payments ranging from Rs.15,000 for those under the age of 18, Rs. 50,000 for an adult and to Rs.150,000 for a public servant.[iv] By 2002, compensation had been paid to 16,324 families (Human Rights Watch 2008: 54).
In December 1999, the government also inaugurated a monument to the disappeared, located on a busy intersection on the route to parliament entitled “Shrine of the Innocents.” Designed by Jagath Weerasinghe, a well-known artist, it was dedicated to the “undying memory of all the lives sacrificed on the altar of organized political terror up to the present day . . . and forever to instil in our hearts and minds the reality that every citizen of this country bears responsibility in some manner for this tragic phase in our history.” Yet, as Sasanka Perera has argued, its location as well its architecture and design prevented it from becoming a monument in the true sense of the word and became a neglected site (2007: 149-170). In February 2012, under the post-war Rajapaksa dispensation, it was bulldozed to the ground to make way for a new development under the post-war beautification and gentrification plan for Colombo of the then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
A Majoritarian Vision of Justice
On the question of prosecutions, the government initially expressed its commitment to prosecute those identified as responsible for the disappearances and a special unit was set up within the Attorney General’s department to do so. [v] However, when peace talks between the GoSL and the LTTE collapsed and both parties returned to war, most of these cases were abandoned. This was despite the fact that in a number of cases family members knew exactly which military units had detained their relatives, which camps they were taken to, and sometimes even had the license plate numbers of the military vehicles in which they were taken away (Human Rights Watch 2008: 5). Once the war recommenced, the threat posed by the LTTE, “national security” and the need to maintain the morale of the armed forces became the new priorities of the government. The political will to prosecute slowly but surely dissipated and never materialized, either under the Kumaratunga government or thereafter.[vi] In fact, as the war escalated during the PA years, perpetrators were most likely to be rewarded through promotions rather than punishment. Amendments to the Emergency Regulations, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the adoption of Presidential Directives introducing safeguards regarding arrest and detention and the maintenance of illegal detention centres designed to prevent further disappearances were followed in the breach (CoI-WSS 1997: 65; Thomson Senanayake 2014: 160-161). The exception was the prosecution and subsequent conviction of six soldiers from the Sevana army camp in Ratmalana and the Principal of the Embilipitiya Central College in the abduction and disappearance of more than 30 advanced level students from two schools in Embilipitiya at the height of the second insurrection.
The Front itself didn’t pursue prosecutions. In the aftermath of the elections and the commission process, it was demobilised and dismantled and the women went back to their homes, to pick up their lives shattered by the insurrection. Many of them were solely responsible for their families and these economic realities overtook all other considerations. Women took up whatever work that was available to them. Some Front members who joined the SLFP and who became part of its patronage networks, were able to secure jobs and resources for their families. Some women were absorbed into jobs within Provincial Councils or the District and Divisional Secretariats. Those who failed to do so, left for the Middle East as migrant workers, leaving children with grand-parents or other relatives. If there were those still inclined to demand for prosecutions and for judicial accountability, they did not have the resources to pursue this demand.
It was not, however, merely a case of economic exigencies overtaking these women’s lives that precluded them from pursuing judicial accountability. I would argue that the Front’s imaginary of justice was in fact shaped by the two male political convenors of the Front. In fact, de Alwis describes the Front as being “trapped in the fists of the SLFP” (2007: 131). It was the SLFP, which found the funding, set the agenda for rallies, handled the advertising, sent out invitations and hired buses to transport women for collective action from various regions of the county. It was Samaraweera’s office that drafted petitions and articulated demands, including the appointment of independent commissions, issuance of death certificates and compensation for the families (Thompson Senanayake 2014; de Alwis 1998a; de Alwis 2007: 132-132).
It seems to me that the moral anger felt by the members of the Front were channelled by its leaders in a partisan political way, with the effect that the defeat of the UNP came to be seen by many as the appropriate response to years of state repression rather than the farther-ranging critique of and challenge to antidemocratic forms of power that ran throughout the political and social system (Nesiah and Keenan 2004: 287-288). Thus, for the thousands of women who had taken to the streets in protest, the defeat of the UNP at successive elections between 1993 and 1995, and bringing in “their government” (ape aanduwa) into power represented the most significant vindication of their struggle. This came to represent the “revenge” that they too were looking for (de Mel 2001).
It is also irrefutable that after the insurrection, young men from the same communities and even families traumatised by arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances at the hands of state forces, confronted with the extremely precarious economic conditions facing their families, began to join the army in increasing numbers.[vii] In Kusal Perera’s words, “(a)fter the bloody massacres were over, both the affected Sinhala families and the Sinhala State had reconciled to leave them behind and get along.” [viii] In Argenti-Pillen’s (2002) analysis the radical, revolutionary, anti-state masculinity that had gained ascendency under the JVP was thoroughly delegitimised in the aftermath of insurrection, as the trope of the heroic soldier gained in currency even within popular imagination and culture. Indeed, the army provided one of the few means of livelihood to communities whose hopes and aspirations were dashed by the insurrection. The women members of the Front were themselves interpellated into this narrative of nationhood, and wittingly or unwittingly became part of an ethno-nationalist and militaristic state project not of their own making.[ix]
In this context, it is possible to understand commissions, certificates of death and compensation following the second southern insurrection as a democratic settlement or negotiation of the question of justice between women members of the Front and its convenors, as well as the Front and the state. Manouri Muttetuwegama, who chaired the Commission of Inquiry for the Western, Southern, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, told me that the members of the Front, “were given a way to grieve for their loved ones, to accept that they were no more, and to reach out towards life again.” Das and Kleinman make a very similar observation about the way public spaces created at the macro political level, to recognise hurt of victim survivors, can facilitate the resumption of everyday life, even in the absence of criminal justice. In their words “justice is neither everything or nothing” and the “very setting into process of public acknowledgment of hurt can allow new opportunities to be created for the resumption of everyday life (2001: 19). Or following Kusal Perera, family members and the State reconciled with each other. I think he is right—particularly if we understand reconciliation as defined by Arendt as neither forgiveness nor punishment, but a judgement and willingness to build a common world together with those who have wronged us (Berkowitz 2011 drawing on Arendt 2006).
And whatever one may call this negotiation between the Front and the state—reconciliation, democratic settlement, political revenge, I think it is necessary to understand the broader implications of the choices made by the Front. I am here concerned with the repercussions of these choices beyond the southern insurrection, in relation to events unfolding in the north and east around the same time.
At the time the government deployed disappearances as a counter insurgency tactic against the JVP in the late 1980s, it was already being used as such in the north and east against Tamil youth. In the aftermath of 1994, disappearances continued unabated culminating in the mass disappearances during the final phase of the war. It is perhaps no secret that high level army officers responsible for war crimes during the final phase of the war, committed these same crimes as junior officers in 1971 and 1988-1991. As one of my interlocutors on the question of impunity in Sri Lanka told me: these officers “were schooled in this violence without ever having to account for it.” Indeed, in the aftermath of 1994, the spectacle of impunity moved to the north and east; majoritarian ethnic identities were reinforced; dominant masculinities and subordinate femininities were reproduced, and the tropes of traitor and hero were entrenched within Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.
In the years after 1994, commissions of inquiry, became the primary modus operandi through which the Sri Lankan state would manage the fallout of mass disappearances, without having to account for them. Between 1994 and 2009, at least 8 commissions of inquiry were appointed either by a perpetrator or a successor state to deal exclusively with disappearances or as part of a broader mandate to inquire into human rights violations more generally. Over the years they became increasingly more ad hoc, half-hearted, hollowed out versions of the 1994 commission process. Many of these were closed door inquiries whose work petered out without releasing any reports or whose reports never saw the light of day in a context of continuing violence. Following the end of the war in 2009, Mahinda Rajapaksa who was then President of Sri Lanka, also appointed commissions of inquiry under pressure from local and international human rights activists, while simultaneously offering compensation to family members, provided the disappeared were registered as dead under a re-enacted RoD, all in the name of reconciliation.[x] This combination of commissions, death certificates and compensation was intended to work in tandem with the necropolitical discourse of denial of disappearances, to erase the disappeared and produce the victim survivors as docile and forgetful citizens of the state. Tamil women survivors of the disappeared have however rebuked, resisted, or subverted that effort at every turn. They have refused to build a common future together with those who have wronged them, until there is some accounting of those wrongs.
Solidarity across the Ethnic Divide
When the southern Mother’s Front was formed in 1991, the mobilisation of maternal grief and mourning was not without precedent in Sri Lanka. In 1984, mothers in the north and east comprising women of all classes came together to protest against the arrest of young Tamil boys and men, at a time when most of the men refused to come out in fear of retaliatory attacks, arrest or indefinite detention. Inspired by the northern Mothers’ Front, Tamil women in the east started their own branch in 1986, taking to the streets with rice pounders to prevent a massacre of members of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) by the LTTE. Yet the increasing hegemony of the LTTE and their suppression of all independent, democratic organisations that did not toe the LTTE line, pushed the Fronts both in the north and east into political conformism. Many members who refused to conform to LTTE diktats, left the north and east. Others took up charitable activities (de Alwis 2002b: 683-684, 2009b: 83-84; Satkunanathan 2012: 651-652).
For a very brief moment in time, the Southern Mother’s Front appeared to hold the promise of a women’s alliance for justice across ethnic and class divisions with the appointment of Manorani Saravanamuttu as the Co-coordinator of the Front in 1991. Saravanamuttu was the mother of journalist Richard de Soysa who was abducted and killed by agents of the state in February 1990. However, as the Front became increasingly politicised, she left in frustration (Thomson Senanayake 2014: 220-221). Under the fist of the SLFP, there was no possibility for the Front to imagine a more radical vision of justice that included and accommodated the feminine wounded “others”, both Tamil and Muslim from the north and east.
De Alwis observes that even though the very name of the Front recalled the Jaffna Mothers’ Front, they were never mentioned as an inspiration for the south or even invited to speak at the meetings (2007: 130). Furthermore, for Sinhala women who were part of the Front, the suffering of Tamil and Muslim women in the northern and eastern war zones seemed far removed from their own reality. Indeed, many claimed never to have heard of the Tamil Mothers’ Front. Elaborating on this point de Alwis states:
They listened to stories of their (Tamil women) suffering in the same way that they listened to my narratives of the Madres of Plaza de Mayo, with blank-faced politeness tinged with impatience as well as weariness. Several of these women also espoused a certain kind of Sinhala nationalism that made it difficult for them to distinguish Tamil civilians from Tamil militants. One woman with several nephews in the army went so far as to tell me that she felt she could not blame Sinhala soldiers for rounding up Tamil boys every time the armed forces were attacked. “I am only angry that these boys did the same thing to their own brothers . . . people of their own blood.” (de Alwis 2007: 131)
In de Alwis’ analysis rather than turning outwards, across communalized boundaries, to acknowledge a common experience of motherhood as well as of shared vulnerability and injury, the grief of the southern women was turned inward, and individualised and sinhalised (de Alwis 2009a: 387). The southern Mothers’ Front, thus, exposed the limits of a politics of mourning based on “blood”, in a deeply divided context, where competing nationalisms demanded the resolute and unambiguous loyalty of its gendered subjects. Grief and sorrow could not provide the ground to forge a link with women in the north and east who had suffered a fate uncannily similar to theirs, mount a collective critique of the violence perpetrated by the state and non-state actors and come together in solidarity in pursuit of the goal of justice.
More than 10 years since the end of the war, I have had much the same experience as de Alwis, in conversations I have had with Sinhala women who were part of the southern Mother’s Front. Many had no knowledge of the extent of or the nature of disappearances in the north and east and were unable to distinguish between civilians and LTTE cadres. They remained preoccupied with their own lives and their own losses. Even if there were those who identified with the pain and suffering of Tamil women family members of the disappeared, they felt helpless and unable to do anything. As one mother told me, “I understand their pain, but what can we do?”
Malathi identified the conundrum felt by feminists, when confronted with the maternalised and racialised form of political protest of the Mothers’ Front. Her conclusion was that recognising the conceptual and material space opened up by the struggle waged by the Front, should not preclude us from retaining a “critical voice and vision that calls attention to the limitations of maternalist politics”, while “striving for less limited formulations of political protest” (1998a: 293). Moreover, she held on to the possibility of a movement for justice across the ethnic divide, while recognising that “political communities of the sorrowing do not and cannot spring forth spontaneously and ‘naturally’; they must be made.” She believed that “for those of us who have tried all else and failed it is such Utopian re-conceptualizations and re-formulations which sustain an optimism of the will” (2009: 91).
Mangala Samaraweera, who together with Rajapaksa was one of the architects of the Mothers’ Front, resigned from the SLFP in 2007, two years before the end of the war. In a 13-page handwritten letter he explained that he could no longer countenance Rajapaksa’s policy of “dismantling democracy, ignoring reconciliation and violating the basic tenets of good governance.” In 2015, it was Samaraweera who spearheaded the United Front’s decision to co-sponsor Res. 30/1 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. He was also the primary champion of the Office on Missing Persons that was established in 2018. In an open letter he wrote to Rajapaksa in 2016, he accused the latter of using the southern Mothers’ Front as merely an “act for the sake of political expediency.” [xi] However, we know that Samaraweera’s own transitional justice project turned out to be an empty promise. Tamil women are now seeking to bypass the state altogether and are searching for a purely international justice mechanism. Yet what guarantee of international justice? As Ann Orford has pointed out, “International law guards the secret history of a modernity which is itself terrorized by the lack of any sovereign authority to guarantee the law or make sense of death” (2006: 3). It is in this impasse that Malathi’s reflections on the southern Mothers’ Front remain still relevant. It is in this impasse that we need her vision of Utopia, more than ever.
Chulani Kodikara is a feminist researcher and activist.
Argenti-Pillen, Alex. (2002). Masking Terror: How Women Contain Violence in Southern Sri Lanka. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
Berkowitz, Roger. (2011). “Bearing logs on our shoulders: Reconciliation, non-reconciliation, and the building of a common world”. Theory & Event, 14(1).
Das, Veena and Arthur Kleinman. (2001). “Introduction”. In Veena Das et al. (Eds.). Remaking the World: Violence, Social Suffering and Recovery (1-30). Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Das, Veena. (2007). “Revisiting Trauma, Testimony and Political Community”. In Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary (205-221). Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearance of Persons in the Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces (CoI-WSS). (1997). Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearance of Persons in the Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. Sessional Paper No. V. Colombo: Government Publications Bureau.
de Alwis, Malathi. (1998a). Maternalist Politics in Sri Lanka: A Historical Anthropology of its Conditions of Possibility. New York: University of Columbia. (Phd Thesis).
_______. (1998b). “Moral Mothers and Stalwart Sons: Reading Binaries in a Time of War”. In Lois Lorentzen and Jennifer Turpin (Eds.). The Women and War Reader (254-271). New York: New York University Press.
_______. (2007) “Feminism”. In David Nugent and Joan Vincent (Eds.). A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (121-134). Malden, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.
_______. (2008). “Motherhood as a Space of Protest: Women’s Political Participation in Contemporary Sri Lanka”. In Paula Bannerjee (Ed.). Women in Peace Politics (152-174). New Delhi: Sage.
_______. (2009a). “‘Disappearance’ and ‘Displacement’ in Sri Lanka”. Journal of Refugee Studies, 22(3): 378-91.
_______. (2009b). “Interrogating Feminist Peace Activism in Sri Lanka”. Feminist Review 91: 81-93.
De Mel, Neloufer. (2001). “Mother Politics and Women’s Politics: Notes on the Contemporary Sri Lankan Women’s Movement”. In Women and the Nations Narrative (233- 281). Colombo: Social Scientists’ Association.
Nesiah, Vasuki and Alan Keenan. (2004). “Human Rights and Sacred Cows: Framing Violence, Disappearing Struggles”. In Neve Gordon (Ed.). From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Orford, Ann. (2006). “A Jurisprudence of the Limit”. In Ann Orford (Ed.). International Law and its Others (1-31). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Perera, Sasanka. (2007). The Politics of Memory: Political Violence, Remembrance and Erasure in Southern Sri Lanka. Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
Samuel, Kumudini. (2003). “‘Activism’, Motherhood, and the State in Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict”. In Wenona Giles, Malathi de Alwis, Edith Klein and Neluks Silva (Eds.). Feminists Under Fire: Exchanges across War Zones (167-179). Toronto: Between the Lines.
Satkunanathan, Ambika. (2012). “Whose Nation? Power, Agency, Gender and Tamil Nationalism”. In . Asanga Welikala (Ed.). The Sri Lankan Republic at 40: Reflections on Constitutional History, Theory and Practice (612-620). Colombo: Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Thomson-Senanayake, Jane. (2014). A Sociological Exploration of Disappearances in Sri Lanka. Hong Kong: Asian Human Rights Commission.
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[i] The other issues of the anti-government platform were UNP’s privatisation policy, rising cost of living and a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict. See Uditha Kumarasinghe, “Power walking,” Sunday Observer, 24 July 2016.
[ii] For a summary of the mandate, findings and recommendations of these reports, Pinto-Jaywardena, Kishali. (ed) (2010). A Legacy to Remember: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry 1963-2002: A reference guide to commission reports with a tabulated list of recommendations, Colombo: Law and Society Trust.
[iii] Section 2 in the Acts of 1995 and 1998.
[iv] Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Addendum, Report on the visit to Sri Lanka by a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (25-29 October 1999), UN Doc.E/CN.4/2000/64/Add.1 (21 December 1999), para.54.
[v] “Sri Lanka: Information on the current status of the People’s Liberation Front,” Resource Information Centre: Sri Lanka, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, December 1998, https://www.uscis.gov/tools/asylum-resources/resource-information-center-83, accessed 24 May 2021.
[vi] Sri Lanka: Information on the current status of the People’s Liberation Front,” Resource Information Centre: Sri Lanka, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, December 1998, https://www.uscis.gov/tools/asylum-resources/resource-information-center-83, accessed 24 May 2021.
[vii] Some women tried to stop their sons from joining the army. De Alwis narrates one such moving story of a mother whose one son had disappeared. When the other son subsequently, tried to join the army, she roamed the streets with dishevelled hair and rumpled clothing, weeping, and exclaiming, “Look, I am already half dead ever since my elder son disappeared, now my other son is trying to finish me off by getting ready to go and die in the north.” The boy, she says, did not finally enlist (1998b: 243-244).
[viii] Kusal Perera. “Reconciliation called Godot and Mullivaikkal week,” Daily Mirror,18 May 2018, http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Reconciliation-called-Godot-and-Mullivaikkal-Week-150059.html, accessed 24 May 2021.
[xi] Mangala Samaraweera, “Open letter from Mangala Samaraweera to Mahinda Rajapaksa,” Daily News, 16 May 2016,
http://www.dailynews.lk/2016/05/16/local/81785, accessed 24 May 2021.