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CHAPTER THREE - THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PERSONS : SOME STATISTICAL INFORMATION

This Commission has received complaints in respect of 8739 disappearances of person since January 1, 1988, from the Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces1. Table 1 gives the district - wise breakdown of the number of persons alleged to have disappeared.

Table 1

Province/District Number of Persons Disappeared

%

Western Province    
Colombo District 866 9.90
Gampaha District 1027 11.75
Kalutara District 884 10.12
Southern Province    
Galle District 622 7.12
Matara District 2371 27.13
Hambantota District 1556 17.81
Sabaragamuwa Province    
Kegalle District 528 6.04
Ratnapura District 885 10.13
Total 8739 100.00

The statistics in Table 1 are graphically illustrated in Figure 1 given below:

Figure 1

NUMBER OF PERSONS DISAPPEARED
District - Wise Breakdown

Tables 2 - 6 below give a statistical breakdown of the disappeared persons by sex, marital status, age by sex, educational attainment, and occupation.

 

Table 2
Disappeared Persons classified According to Sex

Sex

Number

%

Males

8543

97.76

Females

196

02.24

TOTAL

8739

100.00

 

Table 3
Marital Status of the Disappeared Persons

Marital Status

Number

%

Single

5509

63.04

Married

3230

36.96

TOTAL

8739

100.00

 

Table 4
Disappeared Persons Calssified in Terms of Age by Sex

Age

Male

Female

Total

%

Below 9

14

10

24

0.27

10-14

39

5

44

0.50

15-19

1209

21

1228

14.05

20-24

2417

34

2451

28.05

25-29

1767

24

1791

20.50

30-34

1194

18

1212

13.87

35-39

748

20

768

8.79

40-44

431

19

450

5.15

45-49

204

14

218

2.49

50-54

125

6

131

1.50

55-59

91

7

98

1.12

over 60

112

12

124

1.42

Not Mentioned

194

6

200

2.29

Total

8543

196

8739

100.00

 

Table 5
 Educational Attainment of Disappeared Persons

 Educational Qualification

Male

Female

Total

%

Primary

2198

45

2243

25.66

Secondary

5367

109

5476

62.67

Tertiary

69

1

70

0.80

University (Graduate/ Undergraduate)

213

2

215

2.46

Non-formal

9

0

9

0.10

Not mentioned

687

39

726

8.31

Total

8543

196

8739

100.00

Table 5
Disappeared Persons by Occupation

 Occupation

Number

%

1. Professionals1

13

0.15

2. Ayurvedic Physicians

09

0.10

3. Administrative positions in Govt. and private sector

1

0.07

4. Middle grades in Govt. and private sector

169

1.93

5. Clerks

60

0.69

6. Minor grades in Govt. and private sector

176

2.01

7. Journalists

03

0.03

8. Security forces (including the police)

138

1.58

9. Gramarakshakas [village defense personnel]

14

0.16

10. Grama Niladharis [village officials]

09

0.10

11. Clergy (Buddhist)

98

1.12

12. Teachers2

105

1.20

13. Students (including undergraduates)3

736

8.42

14. Proprietary planters

21

0.24

15. Cultivators

1594

18.24

16. Traders

1133

12.96

17. Contractors

20

0.23

18. Labourers

1392

15.93

19. Skilled Workers4

796

9.11

20. Drivers

239

2.74

21. Service workers

94

1.08

22. Fishing (273) and Animal husbandry (19)

281

3.22

23. Miners

51

0.59

24. Tailors

42

0.48

25. Bakers

26

0.30

26. Watchmen

139

1.59

27. Cinnamon peelers

37

0.43

28. Unemployed

896

10.25

29. Others5

127

1.45

30. Not mentioned

315

3.60

TOTAL

8739

100.00

1. This category of "Professionals" include 1 Doctor, 4 Engineers, 4 Lawyers and 4 Accountants.
2. Among the Buddhist priests, there were 10 teachers; therefore, the actual number os teachers should read as 115 (105+10).
3. Among the Buddhist priests, there were 26 undergraduates and 20 students. When they are also added to the student category, the actual number of students should read as 782 (736+26+20). The total number of undergraduates was 129. Except for Bhikku undergraduates (26), others are already included in the student category.
4. Skilled workers incclude Technicians and Artisans (74), Mechanics (78), Carpenters (233), Masons (270), Electricians (62), Machine Operators (40), Welders (34), Tinkers (05), Plumbers (05).
5. The category "others" includes 8 artists, 2 musicians, 11 painters, 13 photographers, etc.

The statistical information reveals that the overwhelming majority of disappeared persons were male (8543),. This number accounts for 97.76% of the total number of disappearances.

Table 2 shows that 3230 (about 37%) of the disappeared persons were married. Even though the number of females disappeared is relatively very few (196), a large number of women were adversely affected as a result of the disappearances of their husbands. Besides, a large number of them also have children of school-going age. Of this number (3230), the Commission, has inquired into 2928 cases. During the sittings of the Commission, we had an opportunity to assess the economic difficulties of the affected families, and found that 2475 families are in need of some kind of financial assistance to support the education of their school children. This clearly shows the low-income level of the affected families (for a detailed discussion on the impact of disappearances of women and children left behind, see Chapter Thirteen). The statistics in table 4 show that 24 victims were children below 9 years. They were actually killed in various incidents such as reprisal killings of families, cross-fire, and bomb attacks (See Chapter Two, on the issue of whether killings fell within the Terms of the Mandate). There are 44 victims within the age group 10-14. Most of them were also killed in incidents similar to what was described earlier. However, there were also several cases of abductions within this group. For instance, a 10 year old boy was abducted by security forces as a hostage in a bid to find his father who was suspected of subversive activities. His father was subsequently captured and killed but the boy never returned home. The statistical data have revealed that the disappeared persons were predominantly the youth. About 63 percent of the disappeared persons belong to the age group between 15 to 29. The most vulnerable group was between ages 20 to 24 (about 28%).

 Table 5 indicates, a very high literacy rate among the disappeared persons. Of them, 2243 (25.66%) had primary education and 5476 (62,67%) had secondary education. There were 129 undergraduates and 86 graduates. The statistical information on the occupations of the disappeared persons suggests that the spectrum of their economic activities was very diverse. The most affected categories among them were cultivators, labourers, traders, and skilled workers. The overwhelming majority of the victims belong to low-income level groups. It is well Known that the cultivators in Sri Lankan rural sector are small holders, and a considerable percentage of them are tenant cultivators. Likewise, petty-traders constituted the vast majority of traders. In a rural setting, even the skilled workers are not financially well remunerated. The numbers given as "unemployed" do not reveal the true position in respect of this category. The reason being that a considerable percentage of persons recorded as employed are in reality persons who are under-employed or seasonally employed. Besides, occupational status is mot mentioned in respect of 315 persons. Therefore, one can safely assume that the actual number of employed persons is probably higher than the figures given in the category "unemployed".

It should be noted that some of the well-known cases belonging to the elite of the society had not been reported to this Commission, and as a result, they are not reflected in our statistics. Since such cases are very few, they would not have significantly changed the overall picture in terms of percentages.

What is given so far is a profile of the disappeared persons. We now proceed to indicate certain patterns of abductions during the period under review. A statistical breakdown of involuntary removals classified according to date of the incident is given in Table 7 and 8 (and also in Figure 2). Table 9 (and Figure 3) contain a statistical breakdown of involuntary removals classified according to the time of day of the incident (by 4 hourly periods).

 

Table 7
 Involuntary Removals Classified According to The Date of the Incident (1988-1996)

Year Jan. - Mar. Apr. - June Jul. - Sep. Oct. - Dec. Total

%

1988

88

66

112

496

762

8.72

1989

454

314

2150

2824

5742

65.71

1990

990

309

411

189

1899

21.73

1991

90

19

36

16

161

1.84

1992

8

8

7

8

31

0.35

1993

3

13

16

8

40

0.46

1994

9

7

10

7

33

0.38

1995

4

4

0

0

8

0.09

1996

2

6

0

0

8

0.09

Total

1648

746

2742

3548

8739

100.00

Note : This is in respect of disappeared persons only.

 

Figure 2
INVOLUNTARY REMOVALS (1988-1996)
ON A MONTHLY BASIS

 

Table 8
 Involuntary Removals During 1988-1990 On a Monthly Basis

Month

1988

1989

1990

Total

January

35

155

552

742

February

25

171

283

479

March

28

128

155

311

April

15

107

102

224

May

28

88

98

214

June

23

119

109

251

July

26

318

171

515

August

42

857

157

1056

September

44

975

83

1102

October

70

926

90

1086

November

149

819

63

1031

December

277

1079

36

1392

Total

762

5742

1899

8403

NOTE: This is in respect of disappeared persons only

 As the Mandate of the Commission covers the Period beginning from January 1, 1988, figures relating to the period following on the Peace Accord of July 1987 are not reflected here. It is generally held that the "reign of terror" in Southern Sri Lanka began since mid-1987, particularly after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord in July 1987.

It is evident from statistical data in table 7 (and also from Figure 2) that the worst period of disappearances took place during the second half of 1989 and the first quarter of 1990. Of the number of cases reported, 5964 (68.21%) disappearances took place during this period. As a year, 1989 represents the worst period; however, there was a marked difference between the first half and the second half of 1989. The number of disappearances during the first half of 1989 was 768 (8.78%) whereas it was 4974 (56.89%) during the second half of 1989. There were 990 (11.32) disappearances in the first quarter of 19990 alone.

Table 8 gives a more detailed breakdown (on monthly basis) of the disappearances. Accordingly, the period between August 1989 and January 1990 represents the worst period of disappearances. 5208 persons who had allegedly been abducted during this period have disappeared. This number accounts for nearly 60% of the total number of disappearances.

As indicated in Table 10, we have already inquired into 7761 cases. This number accounts for 88.81% of the total number of disappearances reported to this commission. Another436cases(4,99%) were listed for inquiry but they could not be indicted as the complainants did not respond to summons, 542 cases (6,20%) remain to be inquired into.

 

Table 9
Involuntary Removals(1988-1990)
Classified according to the Time of day of the Incident
(by Four Hourly Periods)

Hour of the Day

1988

%

1989

%

1990

%

Total

%

00 - 04

62

8.1365

513

8.93

156

8.21

731

8.70

05 - 08

82

10.761

727

12.66

257

13.53

1066

12.69

09 - 12

101

13.255

1106

19.26

399

21.01

1606

19.11

13 - 16

76

9.9738

735

12.80

214

11.27

1025

12.20

17 - 20

156

20.472

896

15.60

304

16.01

1356

16.14

21 - 24

133

17.454

973

16.95

294

15.48

1400

16.66

Time unknown

152

19.942

792

13.79

275

14.48

1219

14.51

Total

762

100.00

5472

100.00

1899

100.00

8403

100.00

Note: This is in respect of disappeared persons only.

 

Figure 3
INVOLUNTARY REMOVALS (1988-1990)
ACCORDING TO THE TIME OF DAY OF THE INCIDENT
(BY 4 HOURLY PERIODS)

 (The statistics given in Table 9 are graphically illustrated in the above figure)

 The breakdown of abductions by time period of the day, as given in Table 9, (and also Figure 3) reveals a very significant feature of this period - the climate of impunity. Quite contrary to the popular belief that most of the abductions took place during night time ("midnight knock on the door"), abductions took place throughout the day. The perpetrators acted with a sense of impunity without being inhabited by spacio-temporal factors. People were abducted not only from their homes but also openly from public places.

 We have so far given statistical data on all the reported cases of disappearances (8739) since January 1, 1988. However, we were required to inquire into and report on certain matters under the terms of the Warrant. Therefore, our observations and findings contained in the main body of this report are based only on cases inquired by us during the period of our tenure.

 As indicated in Table 10, we have already inquired into 7761 cases. This number accounts for 88.81% of the total number of disappearances reported to this Commission. Another 436 cases (4.99%) were listed for inquiry but they could not be completed as the complainants did not respond to summons. 542 cases (6.20%) remain to be inquired into.

 

Table 10
Breakdown of Cases Inquired / to be Inquired

Province/District

Number of Complaints Received in Respect of Disappearances

Number of Cases Inquired

%

Number of Cases Where Complainants were Absent

%

Number of Cases to be Inquired Into

%

Western Province

             

Colombo District

866

790

91.22

34

3.93

42

4.85

Gampaha District

1027

931

90.65

49

4.77

47

4.58

Kalutara District

884

766

86.65

73

8.26

45

5.09

Southern Province

             

Gall District

622

539

86.66

22

3.54

61

9.81

Matara District

2371

2053

86.59

108

4.56

210

8.86

Hambantota Distr.

1556

1359

87.34

82

5.27

115

7.39

Sabaragamuwa Province

             

Kegalle District

528

493

93.37

28

5.3

7

1.33

Ratnapura District

885

830

93.79

40

4.52

15

1.69

Total

8739

7761

 

436

 

542

 

Footnotes

1. In addition to 8739 cases of disappearances, we have also received 191 complaints from Returned Detainees and 12 complaints of Physical Injury.

Posted on 1999-01-01



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