By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Hundreds of Sri Lankans, many carrying photos of their abducted relatives, tearfully demanded Wednesday that the government investigate the fates of scores of minority Tamils who have `disappeared` across the country in recent months.
Civil rights groups say more than 100 ethnic Tamils have been kidnapped amid the new wave of fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government, which is controlled by the majority Sinhalese community. The fighting has plunged parts of the country into chaos and displaced tens of thousands of people.
Shaking with emotion, Thevani Yogarajan, 50, said her husband and two sons, both in their 20s, have not been heard from since they went to the capital, Colombo, in March to get passports so they could travel to India
and escape the fighting.
`Give me my innocent children. They haven`t harmed anyone. Please give them back,` she wailed to the crowd at the rally in Colombo organized by the Civil Monitoring Commission, a group that campaigns against abductions.
`How can I live when three members of my family have gone missing?` she asked before fainting.
Sirithunga Jayasuriya, chairman of the group, blamed the government for the abductions. He said most of those taken attended Tamil Tiger rallies, and the kidnappings were the government`s retribution.
Other rights groups have accused the government of summarily executing those suspected of links to the Tamil separatists.
Several spokesmen for the government and police declined to comment on the allegations when asked by The Associated Press. Government officials have repeatedly denied such accusations in the past.
A total of 155 people have been kidnapped in the Colombo area since last year, Jayasuriya said. Of those, 16 were released after their families paid a ransom, he said. Only five of those kidnapped were Sinhalese, he said.
`The government must take speedy action to investigate the abductions, otherwise we will have reasonable doubt about the government`s complicity in them,` said Ranil Wickremesinghe
, the opposition leader in Parliament.
Badra Ruhunage, 37, said men in a white van snatched her husband, Vairamuttu Varadarasan, 40, in January and she has heard nothing about his fate.
`It ruined our lives,` she said. `I have five children and how can I feed them?`
Violence has soared between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels since December 2005, killing more than 5,000 people in clashes, assassinations and air attacks, despite a Norway-brokered 2002 cease-fire.