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Tamil activist gets death threats for his work defending the families of the missing

Written By Freedam to the nation resettlement of IDPs on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | 9:44 AM

12/10/2013 17:03
SRI LANKA

by Melani Manel Perera
For months, Sunesh has been receiving phone calls from a stranger telling him to quit his job or have his head "hanging on the street." His complaints to the police prove useless. Although police know the identity of the caller, they also told the activist to find him himself. His wife, who was shadowed by a stranger, was forced to seek refuge with her brother. "I will not stop my activities," the activist said, "but I am looking for protection. I am afraid for myself and my family."


Colombo (AsiaNews) - "If you want to see your children again, quit your job. Otherwise, your head will be hanging on the street. This is not a warning," said a caller who has been making death threats against Anthirai Jude Basil Sosai, a Tamil human rights activist also known as Sunesh.
For months, the unknown caller has been telling him "to stop making trouble" if he wanted to live. "I want to continue my work," he told AsiaNews, "but I do not feel safe in Sri Lanka. I need protection."
Sunesh, 33, is married with two children. "My family and I are Tamil," he explained, "a minority that is often discriminated and marginalised in Sri Lanka."
"I work with the Mannar District Fisheries Solidarity, a project of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO). "I work with Internally displaced people (IDPs), with the families of missing persons and small-scale fishermen."
Since 2010, when he began working for NAFSO, he has become one of the most active members in organising peaceful demonstrations, campaigns and hunger strikes. However, he noted, "as a result of my activism, I have been targeted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the army and police."
According to Sunesh, protests he organised could be the reason for the threats. The first came on 6 June. A stranger told him to come out of his house, and threatened him. He resisted, and two days later he went to the police to report the incident.
With the stranger's phone number, police identified the caller, but then told the activist: "You now have his name and national identification number, you can go and find him yourself."
Several months later, on the night of 21 November, the human rights activist received another call on his mobile from the same number. "I was in Negombo," he said, "where we had organised the World Fisheries Days. I answered the phone and the stranger spoke to me in broken Tamil. He told me to come out, that he was outside of my house."
When Sunesh showed no interest in accommodating him, the man began to speak in fluent Sinhala, the language spoken by Sri Lanka's majority.
"He kept pestering me and I told him that if he continued to threaten me, I would make ​​public our conversation," Sunesh said. "His replay was: 'You can talk to whoever you want. We should have kidnapped you before, but did not do it. That was a mistake.'"
After the second call, Sunesh returned to the police to report the matter. Two policemen came to his house and questioned his wife. She told them that someone had followed her and that she was afraid, but nobody did anything.
"For security reasons, I told her to stay momentarily with her brother together with the children," he said. "I am still in Negombo. The other NAFSO members, along with other NGOs, organised a silent march in my honour. But my family and I now live in constant fear."
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