The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) said yesterday they were yet to finalise a list of missing persons during the war in Sri Lanka since 1983 but it could be about 20,000.
However, OMP Chairman Saliya Pieris PC said they had several reports compiled by the commissions and institutions on the number of missing persons in the country.
“We have data of previous reports released on missing persons. The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) says it is about 16,000 people including 5,100 military and police personnel. The Paranagama Commission says 21,000 people have gone missing while the government had received 13,000 complaints through Grama Niladharis on missing persons. These numbers may overlap,” he told a news briefing.
He said there was no need for those who have already complained about missing persons to make fresh complaints to the OMP. “However, if there are any who have previously not complained to any entity about their missing family members can send complaints to us,” Mr. Pieris said.
He said the first interim report complied by the OMP would be released next week with recommendations to the government on the safety of the family members of missing persons and finding out the truth about what had happened to them.
Mr. Pieris said the recommendations would also focus on how to deliver justice to the family members of the missing.
“The interim report will be released on August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, and will be handed over to the President and the Prime Minister,” he said and added that the interim report would be based on views expressed by the missing persons’ family members during the OMP’s outreach meetings as well as the findings of the previous commissions including the Paranagama Commission, the LLRC and the Manouri Muttetuwegama Commission.
Mr. Pieris said they would organise a meeting at the J.R. Jayewardene Centre in Colombo on August 30 at 3.00 p.m. to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.
“We expect the family members of missing persons to attend this meeting and express their views. The keynote speech will be delivered by Human Rights Commission (HRC) Chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama. The reason for holding this meeting is to make people aware about the issue of missing people and the disappeared and to acknowledge the sufferings of their families,” he said.
Commenting on the Mannar mass grave site, Mr. Pieris said they intervened in the matter and that the excavation process had been delayed due to lack of funds.
“Funds should be allocated to expedite the excavation being carried out by Judicial Medical Officers and archaeologists. First, the era to which these skeletal remains belong should be identified. Then, the identification of the skeletal remains can be done. If necessary we can also look into the mass grave site in Matale. We can obtain foreign expertise, especially in the field of forensics,” he said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Nimalka Fernando said they were optimistic about beginning the recruitment of employees to the OMP in January next year. (Lahiru Pothmulla)