Freedom of expression and fundamental rights


Asanka Abeyratne

“Even if you disappear from my world, your memories will always be with me. No one can make it disappear, my love is alive”. 

She met us on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2020 at the Vihara Mahadevi Park in Colombo. That is how she remembered her husband’s love along with the other families of the missing. Her love for her husband, who was forcibly disappeared by the military during the 1989 civil war, still lingers. She is not the only one. Thousands of wives still search for their missing husbands, husbands search for their missing wives, children look for their missing parents and parent look for their children in a relentless struggle for justice for their loved ones. Eleven years after the end of the ethnic conflict, are not all victims of enforced disappearances, killings or casualties in the war someone’s lover or loved one? The families of the missing in Sri Lanka organize “Missing Lovers Day” on February 14 each year. But the event must happen online this year due to the pandemic. 

Many people feel that love is a spiritual bond between two people. Some songs say that love is devoid of lust. What is clear from different ideas about love is that love is trapped within the individual. But once upon a time, it was a connection with a loved one. I am reminded of a question raised by Lenin: “How can a person who does not love society, love his boyfriend or girlfriend?”. Che Guevara, who was considered one of the world’s greatest revolutionaries, once said: “The first qualification to be a revolutionary is to love the world.” This shows that love is inseparable from human life. Today, it is very sad that love has become a private property. Even in a romantic relationship, one tries to match the value of one property to the value of another. And love has become a commodity. There is a market demand for love. February 14th has also become a day to record high sales of commemorative cards and souvenirs. Love has also become an easy-to-use tool for many fraudulent carnivores. A text message received on a mobile phone can state that the lover has sent a gift via his phone or social media account on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, asking the receiver to deposit some money in order to receive it. Lovers should learn to not to be fooled such schemes on Valentine’s Day.

But love is a struggle. Valentine’s Day is also the culmination of a struggle for love. The Roman emperor issued a royal decree banning love affairs and marriage within the empire. But under the patronage of Saint Valentine, a struggle was waged against the royal decree and many lovers intervened to marry. As a result, the emperor killed St. Valentine in 270 AD.

In this context, why is it important that we talk about missing lovers? Enforced disappearances are a serious crime against humanity and a serious human rights violation. An enforced disappearance violates the victim’s right to life and the protection of the law, as well as the victim’s relatives and close relatives. The disappearing loved ones are unique in that they are people who have fought against injustice and persecution. That is why these lost loved ones who are victims of the state’s violence are the true lovers, as their struggle is not for personal gain and any kind of privilege, but for the common good of society.

The Office of the Missing Persons, which was established as a result of the civil society struggle in the justice system for missing persons in Sri Lanka, has now been put to death by the present regime. Also, there was Rs. 500 million allocated from the 2019 budget to pay these families a monthly interim allowance of Rs.6.000. While it was decided to pay these interim allowances within two years to the families who obtain the certificate of absence, only Rs. 11 million was paid for the year 2019-2020. Although these families had inquired from the government about the remaining Rs. 489 million owed to the families of the missing, the government is silent on the matter. While the present government asked to include the money in the last budget, the government has not responded to this.

So, if you are a true lover, you should fight for a loving society and add your voice for the justice of loved ones who have been harmed in many ways.

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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