They Used To Steal Children

A ‘disciplined society’ where children disappear

The crowd at Lasantha’s funeral, 2009

Gane used to always go home early, before sunset. I used to tease him like his parents were over-cautious, but I was so terribly wrong. They used to steal children. They used to kidnap them, collect a ransom, and then murder them anyways.

It was hell, a hell the parents have never gotten out of. The Navy has been covering it up ever since. Culprits have been promoted while brave witnesses get death threats. And now Gotabaya Rajapaksa calls the suspects heroes. On his first day as President, he said he’ll let them out.

They used to steal children.

When Gota was in power no one could do anything. A mother somehow got a call from her son in a cell. He could give her a name, but she met only a state wall. They were kidnapping kids for profit. They were murdering them after the parents paid. And the state wall is still there. She’s still fighting for some closure.

As a parent I cannot imagine. Hearing my son’s voice and then running into a bureaucratic wall around my baby boy. And then never hearing his voice again.

This is horror. If an individual did this we’d call them a serial killer or a monster, but because it’s state power, because it involves uniforms some people call them heroes. The daughter of one of the suspects is cheered at her school. But my God.

They stole children.

The people Gota wants to release (Sunday Observer)

In a way, the people that Gota says he’ll free show who was following his orders. When the cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared. When Editor Lasantha Wickremetunge was murdered. When journalist Keith Noyahr was beaten and abducted. When demonstrators were shot in Rathupaswala.

What I cannot understand is the kidnap and murder for money racket, how was this anything but a rogue unit, but it doesn’t seem like it. Ravindra Wijeguneratne was on trial as an accomplice and he was promoted to the highest military office in the land. Most of the culprits are out on bail and getting promotions. The decent Navy men who testified have been demoted and threatened.

This was under an opposition government, but if Gota comes back even the slow drip of justice will be turned off. It’s not just that the goons will go free, it’s that the person responsible will be President. It will be just that some children died alone in their cells. That some parents can never hear a phone ring the same way. That those lives didn’t matter. That life doesn’t matter.

I still see Sandhya Eknaligoda at protests. Against the coup, for the disappeared, she’s always there, always smiling. Always brave. When a racist and violent monk threatened her in court she fought him in court and got him locked up.

But then the President turned on his voters and released him. And promoted someone implicated in the abductions. And made someone implicated in war crimes Army Commander. In preparation for the ring-leader of them all to become President himself.

“My children and I are at risk now, because my struggle was directly waged against the Rajapaksa family,” Eklanigoda explained. “He is giving the impression that the military can commit any crime and not face the consequences.”

All of our children are at risk. Gane was just a guy I knew and his parents were afraid. They kidnapped anybody, if they thought you had money, if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They took the money and they murdered you anyways. They harassed your parents afterwards to extort more, to threaten them.

That’s the disciplined society Gota wants you to vote for. He promised to care for your children, but remember, they used to steal children.

They. Fucking. Stole. Children.

The Sunday Observer has the best coverage on this ongoing issue: