The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) today requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Presidential Task Force Chairman Basil Rajapaksa to ensure that the families of the missing and disappeared are included in any proposed COVID-19 relief measures.
In a letter to the President and Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, OMP Chairman Saliya Peiris PC said the prevailing situation in the country has had dire consequences on these families, as they are no longer able to earn their wages and they have limited or no assets.
"The OMP recommends that families of the missing and disappeared be included in any proposed relief measures, including the provision of food and financial assistance in response to the current crisis. In particular, as a short-term measure the OMP recommends that dry rations be provided to families of the missing and disappeared through Grama Niladharis. Grama Niladharis have already collected information regarding missing and disappeared in their local area, and such lists could be used to avoid duplication in instances where such families are also beneficiaries under other state assistance schemes for vulnerable persons," Mr. Peiris said.
The letter further said, "In response to one of the interim relief measures recommended by the OMP, the Government proposed to allocate Rs. 500 million in the 2019 Budget, to provide Rs. 6000 monthly relief to families of missing and disappeared persons, including members of the armed forces and police identified as missing in action on the condition of them of possessing a Certificate of Absence.
According to information received by the OMP, interim relief payments valued at approximately Rs.11 million have been paid to 153 beneficiaries, up to 11 November 2019. The OMP observes that in many cases, the most vulnerable among families of the missing and disappeared are elderly and are female headed households and survive on the daily wages of one family member."