Information on the group Mothers' Front and how members are treated by the authorities [LKA19767.E]

According to information faxed to the DIRB by INFORM, a Sri Lankan human rights organisation, three groups are known to have used the name Mothers' Front in Sri Lanka (16 Feb. 1995). INFORM reports that in the early 1990s a Mothers' Front group supported by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) existed briefly in the Eastern Province, but that no other information is available on this group (ibid.). A subsequent fax received by the DIRB from INFORM reports that a Mothers' Front has been operating in southern Sri Lanka since July 1990, while another Mothers' Front began work in northern Sri Lanka in August 1984 (17 Feb. 1995.). For information on the treatment of members of the northern and southern Mothers' Fronts, and on the current status of the two groups, please consult the attachments.

The Sri Lanka Monitor contains a report on the second annual convention of the Mothers' Front, which took place in Colombo on 23 June 1992, but does not identify which Mothers' Front group held this event (June 1992, 4). However, this newsletter reports that 3 000 "grieving relatives of the disappeared heard prominent Sri Lankan women such as Badulla SLFP MP Hema Ratnayake ... and Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu ..." (ibid). The newsletter also reports that this Mothers' Front group wants an independent commission to investigate all disappearances since 1988" (ibid).

In a telephone interview, a researcher with Amnesty International in London corroborated the existence of a southern-based Mothers' Front group (16 Feb. 1995). According to the researcher, Saravanamuttu was part of the leadership of the southern-based Mothers' Front when it was established, although the driving force behind the organisation was the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) (ibid.). The Amnesty International researcher added that this Mothers' Front group worked in the southern provinces of Sri Lanka to publicise the issue of disappearances, and to demand an investigation into killings and disappearances committed by state authorities (ibid.). The reasearcher was unable to corroborate the existence of the other two Mothers' Front groups (ibid.).

In a subsequent telephone interview, the Amnesty International researcher stated that authorities had disrupted or interfered with demonstrations organized by the Mothers' Front (17 Feb. 1995). The researcher could not substantiate reports of ill-treatment of members of the Mothers' Front (ibid.). Information on the treatment of members in villages, or what response their participation in Mothers' Front activities would receive from the police is difficult to find, according to the researcher, although the activities of Mothers' Front participants were public and would be known by the police (ibid.).

According to the Amnesty International researcher, the Mothers' Front relied on a network of supporters in the villages to conduct rallies, marches and other "high profile public demonstrations" in order to pressure the government into investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the disappearances and killings committed during a counter-insurgency campaign against the People's Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna or JVP) (16 Feb. 1995.). Following the 1994 elections two leaders of the southern-based Mothers' Front, MPs Mahinda Rajapakse and Managala Samaraweera of the SLFP were re-elected and now serve in the cabinet of the government, Rajapakse as Minister of Labour and Samaraweera as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (ibid; The Sri Lanka Monitor Aug. 1994, 2).

According to the Amnesty International researcher, the southern-based Mothers' Front apparently has not determined what its role will be now that two of its leaders are members of the government (ibid.). The new government has launched a commission of inquiry into the disappeared, although what role the Mother's Front may play remains unclear (ibid.).

For additional information on the involvement of Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu in the southern-based Mothers' Front, please consult the Inter Press Service article of 17 February 1994 attached to this response. For general information on the southern-based Mothers' Front, including responses of the military to investigations into disappearances, please consult the attachments.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Amnesty International, London. 17 February 1995. Telephone interview with researcher.

_____. 16 February 1995. Telephone interview with researcher.

INFORM, Colombo. 17 February 1995. Fax received by the DIRB.

_____. 16 February 1995. Fax received by the DIRB.

The Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. August 1994. No. 79. "The Cabinet."

_____. June 1992. No. 53. "Task Force Without Teeth."


INFORM, Colombo. 17 February 1995. Fax received by the DIRB.

Reuters. 11 October 1994. BC Cycle. Rohan Gunasekera. Sri Lanka Army Irked by Digging for Leftist Bones." (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service (IPS). 17 February 1994. "Sri Lanka: Four Years On, Mother Still Weeps For Lost Son." (NEXIS)

Japan Economic Newswire. 5 January 1994. "Opposition Calls For Investigative Commission." (NEXIS)

Inter Press Service (IPS). 16 June 1993. Rita Sebastian. "Sri Lanka: Less Rights Abuses, But Haunted by Past Horrors." (NEXIS)