Amnesty International is inviting Sri Lankans at home and abroad to take part in a poetry competition to mark the decades of disappearances the country has experienced.
The competition, “Silenced Shadows”, is launching today as the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared. Sri Lanka has the highest number of enforced disappearances of any country in the world, with tens of thousands of cases over the past decades of conflict.
“Disappearances have been a tragic fact of life for far too many Sri Lankans for far too long. Almost every family, across all communities, are still searching for lost loved ones. Many have simply given up hope of ever finding them,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka expert.
“We hope that this competition will be a space and an opportunity to share creative reflections and responses to this national tragedy. Whether in English, Tamil or Sinhala – we hope Sri Lankans from all communities and walks of life, across the world, will be inspired to take part.”
Twelve distinguished international literary figures will be acting as judges for our three language panels.
“The power of poetic imagination supersedes any other imagination not because it enhances our understanding of the past, present and future, but prompts us, justifiably, to strengthen social justice and equality. This competition is a testament to the subtle force of poetry,” said Dr Rudhramoorthy Cheran, Associate Professor at Windsor University, one of the judges.
How to enter
The competition launches on 30 August 2015 and will close on 31 October 2015. It is open to Sri Lankan citizens or those who have Sri Lankan ancestry and lived in the country in the last 20 years.
The prizes for the best 15 poems in each language will be promoted by Amnesty International and be published in a tri-lingual book in 2016.
At least 80,000 people were disappeared during Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, and just in the final bloody months of fighting thousands suffered this fate after their capture by the security forces or abduction by the Tamil Tiger fighters. Very few of those cases have been resolved and there has been blatant intimidation reported against families who have dared to ask questions.
Several commissions have been appointed by successive governments since 1990 to investigate disappearances. Leading politicians and high ranking officers in the police and security forces have been implicated, yet the authorities have mostly ignored recommendations from the commissions that these figures, some of whom remain in their positions, should be prosecuted.
For more information, people are asked to contact Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0) 777 847 2126 email: firstname.lastname@example.org