OMP recommendations, a timely requirement | Daily News


OMP recommendations, a timely requirement

“The challenges faced by the OMP are many and need to be balanced with the urgency of the needs of families of victims enduring years of physical and mental suffering. The OMP recognises the multiple needs and positions of various families and the importance of securing their trust.” - The OMP suggests recommendations after it had several consultations with the affected people and communities. The OMP had six public consultations within the six months. The OMP, which travels across the country to get to know the needs of the people, has reached the first step of the success by correctly identifying the pressing needs of the affected people, which is a crucial part of any transitional justice mechanism.

We, Sri Lankans have passed a dark part of our history. However, we are fortunate to have made a new change in 2015 and move from the dark past. We have been able to alleviate the fears of “white vans” and “unlawful arrests”. However, still we can hear sundry voices highlighting existing problems and incurable pain and trauma. We cannot be deaf to those agonizing voices.

As Sri Lankans, as the children of one mother, we all have a moral duty to ease the existing problems and heal the wounds. Thus, the recommendations set out in the interim report of the Office of Missing Persons, submitted to the President and Prime Minister on September 5, can be the good initiatives to achieve the reconciliation and heal the wounded communities.

The lack of communications and awareness establish the basement for each and every problem. When we hear something, we need to spend few minutes of our valuable time to realize what it is, to analyze whether it is good or not. Now, it is the time to ask from ourselves what OMP has recommended; why the recommendations are important; why it should be considered in the current context.

Amendment of PTA

OMP proposed the legal amendments including the amendment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). PTA is a draconian Act which had been used as a tool to stage human rights violations in the past. It was enacted as a temporary legislation in 1979 and made permanent in 1982. The PTA was enacted to regulate the emergency situations, but unfortunately PTA fails to comply with International Human Rights Standards.

PTA facilitates arbitrary arrest, detention without charge for up to 18 months without a judicial and torture. Under the ordinary criminal law, confession made by the suspect cannot be considered as an evidence against him. However, PTA allows the confessions made to the police officers above the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) to be used as an evidence against the suspect. The confession is not admissible only on the ground of involuntary nature of the confession. However, under the PTA, the burden of proof vests on Accused, that he should prove the confession was made involuntarily. The arbitrary and unchecked detention powers and the admissibility of the confession contravene the international human rights standards and the legal obligations of Sri Lanka.

The provisions of the PTA contradict with Article 12 and 13 of the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the country. In addition, the PTA disregards the provisions of the international conventions such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which are ratified by Sri Lanka.

Good governance, heard the voices of the aggrieved people and the recommendations made by several local and international institutions including the OMP, has decided to repeal the draconian PTA and replace it with a Counter Terrorism Act which complies with the international human rights standards. Though, there are few concerns raised regarding the released draft on Counter Terrorism Act, space is there to make amendments to the Bill and make it compliant with human rights standards. As citizens of Sri Lanka, it is our duty to put forward our suggestions and inputs on the initiatives of the government.

A debt relief programme

Identifying accurately, the OMP suggests to have a debt relief programme prioritizing the families of the disappeared persons. Baby Nona, an old mother of this country lost all three of her sons, the breadwinners within a night. What she would have done for the basic needs following the disappearances? There was no body to give a hand to her. She was suffering throughout her life. Baby Nona is just one example of many. What other option remains for such helpless single mothers apart from debt, which subsequently destroys their lives? They are compelled to apply for debts from microfinance as they have lost all their assets, livelihood opportunities and the breadwinners during the course of insurgencies and war.

Women who have obtained microfinance and are unable to pay the monthly installments have been subject to sexual harassments by the loan officers. Sometimes they had to sell their kidney or commit suicide as they do not have other options.

It can be noted that the target group of the microfinance lenders is the poor, war affected women. We can’t let our valuable women die or sell their kidney or be subjected to sexual harassments.

The State is obliged to give them relief as it is responsible for their loss. Therefore, the recommendation made by the OMP to introduce a debt relief programme which gives priority to the families of the missing is a timely requirement in Sri Lanka. We, as citizens of Sri Lanka will support the government to save our mothers from the debt trap.


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