Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Rayappu Joseph has declined the invitation to make a submission before the Commission on Missing Persons that recently held sittings in Mannar, citing his lack of faith in domestic mechanisms to resolve serious injustices that Tamil people have faced over the years.
In a letter to the Commission that held sittings in Mannar between August 8 -11, the Bishop has stated that he decided not to make any representation as he has grown weary of domestic mechanisms in resolving serious injustices that Tamil people have faced over the period of war, prior to it and after its end.
He has pointed out that although several other similar Commissions were set up, there has not been even a shred of evidence to indicate that they have succeed in tackling impunity and have only served as eye-washers for governments in power.
Bishop Joseph has recalled the personal appearance he made before the LLRC where he gave evidence although he was well aware for many years that the problem in Sri Lanka is ‘one of lack of political will’ as stated by UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.
He has gone on to state that although he presented 14 grievances before the LLRC, the government has not acted seriously on any of the issues that Tamil people highlighted during the evidence giving. The Bishop has also noted that although initially two meetings were held with regard to the grievances he highlighted with External Affairs Minister Professor G. L. Pieris and President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, both discussions failed even to have a look at any of the facts he highlighted despite his repeated insistence.
Moreover, although a third meeting had been promised, two years have passed without the promise being realised.
Furthermore in the letter, he has criticised the Commission itself, pointing out the name suggests a denial on the part of those who appointed the Commission on the fact that the issue is one in relation to enforced disappearances and not merely about ‘missing persons’.
“People have voiced grievances but that is not because they believe your Commission will help locate their loved ones but because they have nothing to lose in doing so,” Rev. Joseph has informed the Commission on Missing Persons.
He has further criticised the manner in which the sittings have been conducted where the aggrieved families’ economic wellbeing had been inquired of rather than engaging in a serious effort at locating the disappeared as well as the program that is being carried out by the government concurrent to the sittings where families of the disappeared are encouraged to obtain death certificates.
Moreover, the Bishop has described the expansion of the Commission of mandate by the President recently as a ‘deliberate attempt to undermine the work of the UN OHCHR inquiry into Sri Lanka’.
“Without serious commitment to truth there can never be reconciliation and peace will ever remain a mirage,” he has written furthermore in his letter where he has explained the decision to refrain from making a representation.