Office on missing persons not aimed at targeting army: Maithripala Sirisena

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has made it clear that his government’s move to set up an office to find about 65,000 people reported missing during the civil war was not aimed at targeting the security forces but for the redressal of those affected by the strife.

“Those who claim that this Office on Missing Persons (OMP) would betray the security forces, I would like to tell them that I am ready to meet them and argue our case,” Sirisena told a television channel yesterday.

He denied that the move was aimed at targeting government troops.

“We only want to give redress to those who have been affected not to punish anyone,” he said.

Sirisena said the original form of the OMP bill was changed with many amendments by the government at the last stage before bringing it in parliament and there was nothing to fear about it.

The function of the office is to establish whether a missing person is dead or alive and, if they are dead, discover when, how and where they died.

While the Tamil rights groups have welcomed the move, the Sinhala nationalist majority groups stay opposed.
They said the move will extract revenge from security forces for needing the LTTE’s militancy which killed thousands of civilians and soldiers.

The Joint Opposition backing the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa created a rumpus in parliament when the bill was introduced last Thursday. They said the bill had not been legally adopted.

Amidst opposition protests Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said the bill had been approved without a vote. He said the opposition did not take his offer to debate and go for a vote if needed.

The draft bill to establish an OMP was passed with amendments in Parliament without a vote on August 11.