In their desperation, some of these families have even been exploited by the military. “The CID told us they have our children, and to pay up if we want to see them. People have paid from Rs. 100,000 to as much as Rs. 500,000.” Military intelligence also often photographs the protesters.
“If our children did something wrong, take them to courts, or to prison. You cannot hold someone without a trial,” Therese said. “In order to get the confessions, people will hit and hit. After a while, because you are in so much pain you might shout that you did it. This is a disgrace to Sri Lanka,” she added.
Even amidst her own pain, Therese has great empathy for Sinhalese families too. “We care for the Sinhalese families of the disappeared too. They are our friends. We want them to understand our struggle. We want them to stand with us,” she says.
She describes seeing Sinhalese mothers, who lost their children during the JVP insurrections testify at public hearings. “The Sinhalese mothers cry as much as we do – our tears will turn to fire and the whole country will burn.”