A significant step | Daily News

A significant step

Sri Lanka went through a 30-year conflict that saw loss of life and destruction of property on a massive scale. In every country where conflicts have raged on for this long, it is not easy to come to terms with what happened during that period, depending on one’s perspective. Although the conflict here ended in 2009, nine years later, we are still searching for answers – and lasting peace.

One major cause of this impasse was that the former Government engaged in triumphalism without bringing everyone together, while ignoring the human rights concerns expressed locally and internationally. Anyone who dared to raise this issue was branded an LTTE sympathizer. Much of the Western world became hostile towards Sri Lanka as a result of this belligerent attitude. Had that Government continued in power, Sri Lanka would certainly have faced the bleak prospect of economic sanctions.

Fortunately, the Government elected in 2015 adopted a far more rational attitude towards the Human Rights concerns raised by the international community. Having strengthened domestic justice, law and order and other institutions, the Government impressed upon the international community that a foreign mechanism was not needed to probe what is essentially an internal affair. It was thus able to successfully thwart any punitive action or interference against Sri Lanka globally.

The Government proposed four key steps that would form the basis of the domestic mechanism to probe wartime rights concerns. These are the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), an office to handle reparations, a truth commission and a judicial mechanism to address allegations of wartime abuses. In line with this commitment, President Maithripala Sirisena has confirmed the appointments of the seven members to the Office of the Missing Persons (OMP) established in September 2017.

The President appointed President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris as Chairman with six others were appointed as members. The members are: Jayatheepa Punniyamoorthy, Major General Mohanti Antonette Peiris, Dr. Sriyani Nimalka Fernando, Mirak Raheem, Sumanasiri Liyanage and Kanapathipillai Venthan. The members represent all ethnic and religious groups in the country and crucially, there is a retired senior Armed Forces officer as well.

The OMP was established through Act No.14 of 2016 and amended by Act No.9 of 2017 and came into effect on September 15. The Act stipulated that the OMP would, “Provide for the establishment of the office on missing persons; to provide for the searching and tracing of missing persons; to provide assistance to relatives of missing persons; for the setting up of a database of missing persons; for setting out the procedures and guidelines applicable to the powers and functions assigned to the said office; and to provide for all matters which are connected with or incidental to, the implementation of the provisions of this act”.

According to the Paranagama Commission appointed to investigate into missing persons, close to 19,000 persons have been confirmed to have gone missing during the three decade conflict. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded 12,000 cases of enforced disappearances related to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uprisings and during the armed conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government Forces from 1980 to 2010.

It is in our interest to investigate these disappearances and find the truth. Those who shout from the rooftops that this is a “witch-hunt” against members of the Security Forces are very much mistaken. No one has implied that they are responsible for the disappearances and anyone who does so is not a true patriot at all. It is vital to protect the good name of our Security Forces and it is much better to confront any allegations head on in order to clear such concerns. Any bad eggs should not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the Armed Forces. Moreover, many Security Forces members themselves have gone missing during the last 30 years. We wonder whether these false patriots are against probing those disappearances.

Several recent incidents point to an alarming trend – nine years after the war, most Sri Lankans still have a war mentality. It is important to remember that we were not at war with another country. When the war ended in 2009, we did not conquer another country. It was a conflict that pitted brother against brother and sister against sister. The combatants on both sides and the civilians who were caught in the middle (regardless of ethnicity) were all Sri Lankans. But many seem to have forgotten this fact, judging by the hate campaigns we see on Facebook.

It is time to move on. Hate will not take us anywhere. Misguided elements among the Sri Lankan Diaspora must realize that all Tamil parties in Sri Lanka are against the concept of a separate state. Likewise, those in the majority community who are against any concessions to the minorities must understand the reality that we have to get together to rebuild the country. We must come to terms with the past and find unity in diversity. Reconciliation is thus the only way forward. 


There is 1 Comment

It is the diaspora responsibility to correct the evils of the country from 1956 to 2009. Citizens politicians blame every sources other than their own backyard cultures. Elected politicians are elected because some are totally incompetent because of their contradictory docial statement all we suspect lack of proper level of social understanding and in many cases there were no moral discipline. Pity one may say need lot of rethinking among religious social political with media pundits playing a vital role educating the public. Country come first citizens second but politicians must depend on defend forces to dolve the county,s social problem if not they may not be here in few years


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