The International Truth and Justice Project expressed strong doubts about Sri Lanka’s seriousness on the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), questioning the appointment of Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe to overlook the implementation of its recommendations.
Samarasinghe, an ally of President Maithripala Sirisena, was recently appointed the head of a 10 member Cabinet sub-committee overlooking the implementation of OMP’s interim recommendations.
“The Government of Sri Lanka is undermining the Office of Missing Persons by appointing a politician to implement its recommendations who has denied war crimes, including enforced
disappearances, and who allegedly intimidated a victim,” ITJP said, in a statement.
There are also concerns that the appointment of this sub-committee could be a delaying tactic to further undermine the process, especially as there is no timeline given for its activities,” the statement said.
Minister Samarasinghe has previously denounced reports of enforced disappearance as terrorist propaganda and outrightly dismissed the idea that Tamils disappeared after surrendering at the end of the civil war.
“This denial is problematic and rejects the stance taken by the Office of Missing Persons which has said its priority case is the disappearance after surrendering to the Army of hundreds of Tamils in May 2009. For a list of more than three hundred names of those individuals,” it added.
“Appointing individuals like Mahinda Samarasinghe appears to be a deliberate attempt to subvert the entire process, which is already struggling for legitimacy with many Families of the Disappeared. It is also extremely offensive for the families, many of whom handed their loved ones over to the security forces at the end of the war never to
see them again,” ITJP Executive Director Yasmin Sooka said.
The ITJP also said, “Minister Samarasinghe is also responsible for understating the population numbers in the 2009 war zone, and he refused to accept there were civilian casualties, denied government forces repeatedly targeted civilians and denied they used heavy weapons and claimed there was no issue with media freedom. As Human Rights Minister during the Rajapaksa Government, Mahinda Samarasinghe continuously defended their record and continues to deny state wrongdoing to this day.
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