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Ineffectiveness of the Office on Missing Persons and challenges face by the Families of Disappeared Persons in Sri Lanka

Image: A press conference was held in Mannar jointly by the families of the disappeared persons and Forum for Affected Persons in related to the challenges face by the families of disappeared persons. They called the Government of Sri-Lanka and the Office on Missing Persons to improve the functions of the OMP in order to improve the effectiveness of the OMP.

Families of disappeared persons continuously forwarded their demands locally and internationally for a period of 12 years. At this juncture, the Government of Sri Lanka does not provide relevant justice to the particular people so far.

In spite of pressure from the UN, the Office on Missing Persons was established under the transitional justice policy, temporary provisions Act No – 14 of 2016.

Even many disagreements or various opinions are prevailing among the affected people in regarding to the Certificate of Absence (CoA), majority of the said affected people agreed to obtain the Certificate of Absence with the support of OMP in order to register their disappeared beloved ones’ names in government official structure based on the enforced disappearance.

Notably, the copy of national identity card, copy of birth certificate & marriage registration certificate, written letter of commissions, copy of complaint in police station or interim report, affidavit and any media news are requested as vital documents by the OMP in order to apply for the Certificate of Absence.

Approximately, 2-3 months have taken to collect the above said vital documents. Even after being received Certificate of Absence, the particular government department & institutions did not accept the Certificate of Absence to withdraw the bank deposits, insurance company deposits which were deposited on the disappeared persons’ bank account and not allow dealing in regarding to the any properties by using with this Certificate of Absence.

Further, there is a sentence on the reverse of Certificate of Absence as  “Section – 81(2) of the Registration of Deaths and Missing Persons (Special Provisions) Act, No – 19 of 2010 requires all institutions and persons in authority to recognize and accept the Certificate of Absence as proof of the status of the person missing when applying for benefits under any social welfare scheme and when making representations on behalf of the missing person and his estate, before executive, administrative and judicial authorities”.

Even though it was clearly stated that the CoA is a proof of the missing of the person and requires all respected institutions to accept it but there are institutions that do not recognize the CoA. Hence, what is the usefulness of obtaining the Certificate of Absence (COA)?. Thereby, the particular families of disappeared persons feel the real circumstances that this is a useless activity to them.

Further, even though the FOD’s handed over all necessary documents to the district level OMP offices, the Director of Database Management Unit, Office on Missing Persons, Head Office requested them to submit all the documents again by the signed letter.

So, we feel that this is a time lapsing activity by claiming the documents again even FOD’s submitted all documents to the OMP District Offices. Already, the FOD’s submitted all documents to the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) for the initial updating process.

Likewise, the same documents were submitted to the Registrar of Birth and Death Division of respected Divisional Secretariats in order to obtain Certificate of Absence (COA). It will be an effective and fruitful activity in future if all copies of relevant documents which were submitted to the Divisional Secretariat in order to obtain COA passed to the OMP.

The families of disappeared persons do not need to wander to the government departments again and again if the OMP requests all documents from the FOD’s while they come forward to update their beloved ones’ information with the proper documents in OMP for the first time.

The huge defect has been identified in OMP and Divisional Secretariats that the recognized renewal application form for COA is not designed by the government and not let the public use it. Notably, even the government issued the application form for birth/death certificate and / or search of registers, application form for marriage registration certificate and / or search of registers to the public through the divisional secretariats, the recognized renewal application form for COA not in use in any divisional secretariats yet.

Further, there is another procedure is still in force in all divisional secretariats in regard to the renewal of COA. It means that the request letter for renewal of COA should be submitted to the respected divisional secretary by the FOD’s while they come to the divisional secretariat in order to renew the certificate of absence. But this procedure was not proclaimed to the public.

Further, it would be an effective function of OMP if sharing the data for affected peoples’ benefits which were issued to the divisional secretariat, presidential commission of inquiry also. Under the situation of death of FOD’s without receiving relevant justice for their disappeared relatives by the time lapsing, it considers that “delayed justice equals to denied justice”.

We condemn the coating and waxing activities of the present government of Sri Lanka. Because, the present government is revealing the OMP activities to the UN as a quality one even though OMP is functioning as poor and dim.

Therefore, we call upon the Government of Sri-Lanka and OMP to improve the quality and effective function of the OMP  including with the legal provisions and provide its unstinted service to the FOD’s without time lapsing.

Families of Disappeared Persons, Mannar District and Forum for Affected Persons, Mannar District, Sri-Lanka

13 October 2021


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