You cannot simply forget and move on! ; OMP stresses on need for closure

You cannot simply forget and move on! ; OMP stresses on need for closure

You cannot simply forget and move on! ; OMP stresses on need for closure

Written by Zulfick Farzan

08 Mar, 2019 | 7:51 pm

Colombo (News 1st) – One year since the Office on Missing Persons was established, the office has made significant progress on finding closure for the families of people reported missing and never seen again. President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris, the Chairman of the OMP speaking exclusively to News 1st said, when looking at the issue of missing people from the outside it is very easy for one to say to move on by closing the chapter.

He stressed it is paramount for victims to be given closure rather than telling them to move on with their lives adding those who make statements on moving on to save the coffers from investigations are those who do not understand the gravity and serious nature of this issue. He said, making such statements is the easy way out and the victims should be given the right to decide on moving on or to finally find closure with the fate of their loved ones.

The establishment of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) marks a significant milestone in the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to address the issues of the missing and the disappeared. PC Saliya Peris said one of the major steps taken by the OMP is to acknowledge the fact people disappeared and bringing this up for discussion among the people, as many continue to live in denial.

To facilitate the process of tracing the missing and the circumstances that led to their disappearance, the Office on Missing Persons is in the process of setting up a strong investigation and tracing team, with applications for the head of investigations to be called for in the coming weeks.

Noting that tracing the missing people is a long process, the Chairman of the Commission highlighted the fact the OMP started from zero with no structure or plan or staff and had to build itself through brainstorming sessions among the commissioners. Further, forensics in Sri Lanka needs to be developed for this process and it needs a holistic approach as the OMP cannot run the show on its own.

Speaking on the Mannar mass grave, PC Saliya Peiris said, if not for the Office on Missing Persons advocating for expeditious excavation, the process would never have commenced. A carbon dating report would not have been called for, to understand the truth behind the mass grave and the exact period of death.

Though the carbon dating report prepared by US-based Beta Analytic – Radiocarbon dating services revealed that the samples obtained from the Mannar mass grave fall within the calendar year range between 1400 and 1650 AD, the OMP stressed this is a precursor for future mass graves that may or may not be discovered in Sri Lanka.

President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris, the Chairman of the OMP speaking exclusively to News 1st said, it is impossible to give the exact number of complaints forwarded to the OMP on missing people. The reason for this is, families of victims of disappearances have approached the OMP through several avenues, which include the OMP facilitated out-reach meetings where 2000 families reached out to the OMP personnel.

In addition, the OMP received more than 15,000 files of people reported to be missing via the divisional secretariats, but these are basic documentation and the OMP is now tasked with preparing the final list of the missing people. Peiris said this is a very serious and time-consuming process, and its personnel are working round the clock to enter the data and prepare the final list. He added, the OMP is now looking at taking into consideration the reports of all 11 previous commissions mandated with investigating the missing and analyzing the testimony given by the families of people reported missing.

He stressed repeatedly, that this process is done because the OMP does not wish to tax the families to re-live their testimony about their loved ones who remain missing to date.

Latest News