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A Funeral In Sri Lanka

The one phrase that every Sri Lankan parent fears to hear when they report a missing child is "there is no record of an arrest."

Such words were heard by the parents of 25 year old student Premalal Piyasiri when they tried to see their son who had been arrested on the 23rd of July 1989. True to form his badly burnt body was found in a shallow grave seven days later. The police denied any knowledge of the killing. His body then disappeared from police custody before his parents could claim it.

Grieving friends and relatives held a symbolic funeral with an empty coffin at Colombo University. Over 500 students, monks, and members of the general public attended to pay their last respects.

The civil war in Sri Lanka has become on of the most violent and unreported in modern times. It has taken the lives of more than 30,000 civilians in the last seven years and produced 250,000 refugees. Torture is widespread on both sides and half-burnt bodies are a routine sight on the roadside and in rivers.

Shortly after this photograph was taken a leading human rights lawyer and thorn in the government's flesh was shot in broad daylight in the centre of Colombo.

His protege was murdered shortly afterwards.

Taking the Picture

Some more copy

Further Information

By 2002 things have moved on. The events of September 11th, 2001 has made the Tamil Tigers policy of terror unsustainable and, at last, both sides are at the negotiating table. Perhaps at last there is some hope for peace after more than a decade of violence.

You can find more information on human rights issues from Amnesty International.

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