(May 2009: LTTE militants and suspects in military custody who went missing)
Brito Fernando – Chairman, Association of the Parents and Family Members of the Disappeared.
After 25 years, a government of Sri Lanka has promised the international community at Geneva that they will take steps to investigate disappeared people. Accordingly, the government took steps such as signing the UN declaration against disappearance, setting up a task force and obtaining parliament’s approval to set up an Office for Missing Personnel (OMP). These steps can be regarded as positive developments towards keeping its promise. Although the government is not moving fast in this regard, we are optimistic about the future.
Certain extremists in the South including Mahinda Rajapaksa and Vasudeva Nanayakkara are trying to disrupt these proceedings by claiming that there are attempts made to take the army to the gallows. But if Mahinda and Vasu had brought in parliament a bill in 1989 against State sponsored abductions and executions, it would be the same bill as this one. As those who backed it then are against it today, people such as Mangala Samaraweera who backed it then is backing it still. As representatives of the family members of the disappeared, we are glad about the government’s decision. There are certain lapses in this Act. Especially, as to how these findings could be linked to justice and the steps the government should take with regard to compensation. But at this instance, we will stand by the government to defeat the agenda of racists.
It would have been better if the OMP was given some more power. We would propose for a better mechanism that would make use of the information received from the people. The government has promised to set up a separate bureau for this purpose. We urge the government to implement it soon.
It is a good sign that the government had agreed to look into the disappearances that had taken place since 1971 instead of 1989. Even the Geneva report had focused on the years – 2002 – 2009. The office would also look into the disappearances of military and police officers. This is a good step towards reconciliation. I see this as a central institution that could combine all disappearances. But we must keep in mind that this is going against the will of the racist politicians in both North and South. So we must try to make the best of it. By finding out the truth behind disappearances and by punishing those responsible for them, any future atrocity could be discouraged. It is a progressive step the government has taken by criminalizing forced disappearances. It sends a strong message to those who think of protecting these culprits to retain power. Further, the apologies made by Ranil Wickeremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga to portray their honesty must be admired. The promise they have given about preventing such atrocities from taking place again in the country is good news for everyone.