by Zacki Jabbar
The Office of Missing Persons (OMP) which commenced operations late last month had so far received 13,294 completed applications or Feedback Data Sheets (FDS), Secretary to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation (MoNIR) V.Sivagnanasothy said yesterday.
The OMP comprising Saliya Pieris (Chairman ) Dr. Sriyani Nimalka Fernando, Major General (Rtd.) Mohanti Antonette Peiris, Jayatheepa Punniyamoorthy, Somasiri Liyanage, Mirak Raheem, Kanapathipillai Venthan and M. I. M. Rafeek who is Secretary to the Commission, began functioning on February 28, 2018.
President Maithripala Sirisena as the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation signed the Gazette Notification on September 12, 2017 declared the operationalisation of the OMP Act with effect from September 15, 2017. Rs. 1.4 billion had been allocated to the MoNIR through a special proposal in this years budget.
Sivagnanasothy said that the Commissioners had met thrice to discuss mechnisms and modalities and office space had been allocated at the MoNIR at Nawala, as a transitional arrangement.
Already 13,294 completed applications or FDS have been received from Grama Niladhari’s countrywide via Divisional and District Administration. More FDS are expected, he noted adding that a database had been developed to maintain missing persons records.
Pointing out that the OMP would not benefit just one community, but cut across all ethnicities and religions, as a transitional justice arrangement, Sivagnanasothy said that it had been established by an Act of Parliament with perpetual succession to investigate the missing persons not only in the North and East , but also in other parts of the country.
He observed that the OMP was a major milestone in the reconciliation process as it attempted to address the grievances, suffering and pains of those missing families through a truth seeking and investigative process to ensure emotional closure and to assure lasting peace and reconciliation
Tears and pains have no ethnicity, no religion, and no race and all tears are the same. The missing families not only suffer because of their missing loved ones, but also because they do not know whether they are dead or alive.
The missing people not only belong to one District or one Province, but belong to all Districts and Provinces. They went missing in 70’s, 80’s and in the 90’s including those went missing during youth insurrections and during conflict encompassing civilians, soldiers, armed groups and journalists.
The OMP as a first step sought to investigate missing persons in conflict affected North and East including victims, civilians, armed forces and Police, Sivagnanasothy added.