20 September, 2018

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Three Stories & Task Of The Office Of Missing Person 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

An academic of Sri Lankan origin, Dr Minoli Salgado, recently conducted a workshop on Writing Truths: The Power of Testimony, in which key concepts in testimony studies were discussed in the Sri Lankan context with a view to developing a survivor-centred approach in the production and reception of testimonies in the country. As part of its commitment to the UN-mandated concept of transitional justice, the government has also pledged to set up a truth-seeking commission in which testimony will be given and recorded. The setting up of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) by the government, as part of this same commitment, and the OMP’s issuance of its first report last week made this workshop a relevant intellectual exercise at the present time.

As part of the workshop methodology, the participants were asked to share a story of a war victim that they had heard from the person sitting next to them. As there were many of us, we were given only two minutes to summarise the story that we had heard. Sitting next to me was a female religious and she told me this story of a mother who had lost her daughter. It was the last days of the war in May 2009. About a hundred youth in an area were rounded up by the Sri Lankan military and put into a bus. The daughter of the woman was one of them. The mother got onto the bus along with another mother. They were permitted to travel for a while but at a certain point they were offloaded and the bus went on. They never saw their children again.

This was the story I related to the participants at the workshop. I was congratulated for having summarized the story I had heard in less than two minutes. This story was described as a fitting case for the OMP to investigate as it fitted into the mandate of that newly set up institution. This is the challenging task of the OMP which has to deal with 20,000 other cases of missing persons as well. This is going to be challenging not least because the victims have fragmented memories of fragmented lives in the context of being displaced numerous times, and the structural obstacles to finding out what happened to those that went missing.

Broken Memory 

But as the discussion at the workshop continued, I suddenly remembered that I had left out an important part of the story in my hurry to summarise the story into the two minutes that had been allocated. This was that six years later in 2015, the mother saw the photograph of her daughter amidst a group of youth who were photographed along with President Maithripala Sirisena. When I said this, the participants observed that the story was now a new one, and there was a prospect that the missing girl would be found. The story had taken on a second dimension and this was a hopeful one. The discussion at the workshop proceeded with others sharing their stories.

Then again I remembered, I had left out another important element of the story. The mother’s belief that she had seen the picture of her missing daughter along with the president received wide coverage in the news media. “Tamil mothers recognize disappeared children, in a photo with President Sirisena” wrote Melani Manel Perera as the headline of a story that appeared in the Asia News website. As a result of this and other media publicity, the mother of the missing girl had said that she received a visit from a person who claimed to be associated with the president’s media unit. He had said he would find the girl in two weeks.

Much later the message came that there was no information. The girl continues to be missing, one of the 20,000 missing who have been registered with various authorities. This third version of the story I heard and reported in such a broken and fragmented manner to the participants of the workshop brings us to the great tragedy of those who have lost their loved ones and continue to search for them. The task for the OMP would be to patiently and tirelessly document each case as an individual one, with as much detail as possible. It will not suffice, nor be acceptable, if a general statement is made that all those missing are presumed dead, as done by governmental leaders. Such blanket pronouncements, that do not show a sign of caring for individuals, will not end the search for the missing persons, and will more likely bring bitterness that the Sri Lankan state does not care.

Behind every missing person will be a family and relatives who feel the need to find out what happened to their loved one specifically and in detail and will not be satisfied with general answers. This will be the most difficult task to which the OMP has to find answers as the system that made these people go missing is unlikely to collaborate. One of the participants at the workshop, Sandhya Ekneligoda, whose husband Prageeth went missing outside the battlefield a year before the end of the war, said that suspects in her husband’s likely killing have been taken into state custody. But they will not provide any further information that might incriminate others who were more responsible for the human rights abuses that took place in that time of impunity.

Uphill Task 

In its interim report that was released last week, the OMP recommended the publication of a full list of all detention centres as well as detainees and ensure that persons are not detained in any unauthorised detention centres and to repeal and reform provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which permits prolonged detention of individuals without judicial review. It also recommended the suspension of state officials, including members of the armed forces and police who are named as suspects or are indicted in cases relating to abductions and enforced disappearances till the final determination of those cases. It also recommended to provide adequate material and human resources to law enforcement officers, the Attorney-General’s Department as well as the judiciary to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of enforced disappearances. ‘

In addition to the focus on political and human rights issues, the OMP in its interim report also gave attention to economic development aspirations of the government and the general population. The current socio-economic situation of many families of the missing and the disappeared is dire and cannot wait until a final reparations scheme is devised. Thus, a key set of measures is required to provide urgent and immediate relief to the families, the report says. Among the interim relief proposals of the OMP is a proposal to pay a monthly living allowance of Rs. 6,000 to those who have no permanent income. In addition the OMP recommends the introduction of an employment quota of 1% within the state sector in order to facilitate family members of the missing and disappeared who have requisite skills, when vacancies in the public and semi-governmental sectors are being filled.

The OMP faces an uphill task but it comprises some of the best persons that Sri Lanka could bring forward to do the best that can be done in the prevailing circumstances. This is a new experience to Sri Lanka, and the demands will be very great. In other parts of the world, these processes take decades to unfold. The OMP’s seven commissioners bring different skills and experiences to bear but the binding factor will be their integrity and commitment and their success will be in their maturity and sense of balance. The work they do will lay the foundation for truth, justice and reconciliation to emerge, which is essential if Sri Lanka is to leave its divided past behind and journey forward to a shared future.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    OMP has too few Tamils and a disproportionate representation of Tamils given the comparative volume of Tamil missing persons making credibility an issue right from the start.

    The charge is that it is another office for employment for some and stalling and suppressing justice.

    Will it be an institution like the police and the army and the navy, unable to speak in Tamil to Tamils?

    • 6
      0

      Dr. JP thanks
      However, the culture of impunity and immunity for war crimes must end for NON-RECURRENCE of such tragic stories..

      But Sri Lanka is being militarized and army occupation of civilian land being funded and supported by Trumpland – your funders so lets also talk about the PERPETRATORS of the violence and acountabilty – so that there will be no more stories like this in FUTURE.

  • 5
    13

    OMP is created to tarnish the name of our war heroes. We have been campaigning that our war heroes did not commit any crimes. There are no witness to what our war heroes did. Now the OMP is digging deeper to get to the truth, which is going to affect our war heroes. We cannot let this happen to our war heroes.

    • 10
      4

      Jimmy the pimp.

      War heroes or war zeros.
      Send the Bastas to Hague.

      • 6
        0

        JIm

        In war both sides dye when a bomb blast in colombo it is the terrorist job when the Jaffna library burn judge the wittiness. In war every body is taking life who is giving life.

    • 6
      0

      Jim

      We cannot let this happen to our war heroes.

      Who is hero Karuna or Field Marshal Fonseka, What happened why it was made it happen , wonder what happened.

    • 5
      2

      Oh really? You can go and sleep with your worthless war heroes if you care that much…

    • 3
      0

      Hello JS.
      Most of our so called war heroes are known rapists, contract killers for politicians, merciless murderers, bank robbers, burglars, and so on. Today 99% of crimes in the Buddhist land are committed by these war heroes.

    • 3
      0

      Dimwit:
      You should really consider writing ONLY on Sinhala sites. The more you write the more stupid you sound.

      “Now the OMP is digging deeper to get to the truth, which is going to affect our war heroes.”
      So if the truth is going to say otherwise than what you campaigned then you are accepting that war crimes were committed. So how can you call a WAR CRIMINAL a War hero?

  • 8
    0

    JS
    “There are no witness to what our war heroes did.”
    Does that mean that there was no crime committed?
    If so, what is there to worry about any search?

  • 3
    1

    Who are the seven commissioners?
    Who/what, is a “female religious” in the above account?
    The ‘interim report’ submitted – to whom ? – should be tabled in parliament for discussion.
    How did the girl whose image appeared alongside the president, go missing?
    Who was the person who visited the mother?
    The 20,000 missing persons – do they include those carted away from the vicinity of the battlefield in buses, at the end of the war, by the military, to ‘vanish’ without trace?

    • 3
      0

      justice:
      Will you be surprised if you hear that part of the wealth that the Rajapaksa’s and Sirisena’s accumulated during the last govt was by sex trafficking young girls abducted from the war zone?
      Nothing in Sri Lanka will surprise me.

  • 3
    0

    More than 100 000 killed, 146 000 still missing. How, why and by whom? Need international independent investigation, for justice and accountability. War criminals need to surrender, the sooner the better.

    • 1
      1

      Manicka Vasagar

      “More than 100 000 killed, 146 000 still missing. How, why and by whom?”

      Do you have a comprehensive list of all those whom you think died or got killed by others? Please let us have their details such as their full name, address, date and place of killing, age or date of birth, marital status, details of kith and kin, any eye witness, proof of killing, a video clip, …………………………

      • 1
        0

        Waiting for UN to step in and demand the army to surrender and to provide this list of those who were taken into custody after the war in bus loads.
        The white flag incident, Balachandran, and Isapriya murders are war crimes, to hang some of you. Go and watch the NFZ, and refer to the OISL Report.
        Why do you think that 36 out of the 47 member countries in the UN HR Council in Geneva signed the 30/1 resolution on Sri Lanka – because they believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity took place and are demanding that an international independent investigation with foreign judges, lawyers and prosecutors. Please don’t fool your conscience.

        Where is the little girl with the President in Temple trees?

        • 0
          0

          Manicka Vasaga

          My request to you again:

          Do you have a comprehensive list of all those whom you think died or got killed by others? Please let us have their details such as their full name, address, date and place of killing, age or date of birth, marital status, details of kith and kin, any eye witness, proof of killing, a video clip, …………………………

          • 0
            0

            Pls refer to “youarenotforggoten” website, for a start.
            Go to the NE and talk with them, For the enforced disappeared.
            Read all about it in UN Special Rapporteurs Report on Sri Lanka

  • 2
    0

    If UN putting is effort to make these crooks to write truth, the interesting part now is, it is clear how much the UN believing these crooks are only lying.
    Jehan PhD is tirelessly corrupting the perception of the minds of IC and locals on the worthiness of OMP office. This is like same in kind of Government having set up of a Human right Council and promoting its commissioner as independent and sincere Official. She employed only to self-defense of her. This OMP is an office even UNP minister Sumanthiran said of it as a hopeless office.
    He is earnestly determined to protect the criminals from the IC or Local Tamils on whom the war was leased. He is paid to fabricate false hope and keep the Tamils quiet and defuse their anxiety. The output of Jehan PhD’s effort is much more bangs than the bucks.
    As the PhD is a brainwashed case by Appe Aanduwa, even if he visits a truth telling convention, he only can remember to promote Lord Nesaby’s revelations, but not ready to strike out any of these as government’s propaganda. Jehan PhD promoted “Lies agreed upon” but he never can write a sentence those are government’s lies with witnesses tortured up to read out government’s statements. These all are rotten efforts to grinding the same batter repeated, to fool IC and make them keep quite. From the time Jehan PhD has started his magic hat operation of Reconciliation, Tamils’ ordeals has not improved even a centimeter.
    This is an OMP there is no Tamil side person to represent Tamils’ interest who are victims, but listing perpetrators, the Rapist Army, as the missing people. The benefits proposed will be confined to missing Rapist Army soldiers’ relatives, which should have been dealt with compensation and pension from yearly 10% GDP budget for war at peace time. Their soldiers’ legitimate money was stolen by War heroes to remit in Foreign Banks, a story blackout from Jehan PhD’s truth telling.

  • 2
    0

    Sinhala Government is paying for well-known propagandists and promoting one after other of its cheating techniques but not ready to give up an inch to bring in a Tamils’ rep to the search. Only purpose in OMP & Jehan PhD promoting Sinhala Armies as missing persons is to confuse the IC and fool as justice provided to Tamils.
    This OMP had got its data transferred from infamous Paranagama Commission, because which’s open notorious fields operations of using CIDs to witness suppression, out of the 150,000 missing, even 5,000 didn’t report to the commission.
    Jehan PhD never wrote a line that Gnanam’s arrest was only show while murderers are in Colombo Roads in Rallies. Sandhya accused openly Old Royal family War Criminals as ordered it. The entire world can conceive it other than Old Royals’ protective skins Jehan PhD and Ranil. For Jehan PhD just to plainly write that truth, without cover-up, why UN is wasting money on teaching him to write the truth. When Jehan PhD could not be made to tell the truth, for what the heck UN is wasting money in to get them tell the truth. Jehan PhD will be telling stories until Ranil can find way out of his troubles or the election comes.
    The game appears to be Srikotta has geared Jehan PhD to turn it around and make witnesses to confess that they are lying because CID’s numbers, which is the one reliably documented by Paranagama, are different from what they say and said. Jehan PhD is cutting ground for a defense of the witnesses has memory lapses so they are not reliable against the Rapist Army.
    Indian Supreme Court has let the Tamil Nadu government to decide of what should be the fate of the 7 people convicted by federal justice system. But in other – many cases Federal system decided whether to release the convicted or not. Because here in Lankawe that Tamils are blanketed as Terrorists, this matter is not going to the hand of NPC to manage.

  • 0
    2

    Is Jehan Perera Talking about those Missing people who took the cyanide capsule and those black tigers who made stinky smells in their pants and the govt burried naked. I think JVP and many other groups don’t pay money to NGOs to write these articles and that is those missing from JVP wars, three forces, villages, those killed by LTTE ar enot mentioned here.

  • 1
    3

    You are right Jehan behind every missing person is a grieving family, a member of one I work with, she is Sinhalese and like the families of tens and thousands of Sinhalese people missing from 1989 to 1991 she has no support from any international body like the one you represent, in fact some people now involved with the OMP office were in the island and aligned with the elements which caused unimaginable terror, paramilitary killings and disappearance during that time of terror. How do you live with that kind of duplicity? Is hypocrisy blissful?

    • 2
      0

      wannihami

      As usual you are talking bollocks.
      Even the JVP admitted Chandrika government paid out compensation to numerous families and individuals who had lost their kith and kin without admitting guilt or responsibility. Compensating the victims does not mean the state and its war criminals should be absolved from guilt and punishment.

      You should approach the JVP and find a way to compensate the Sinhalese person. I hope you do not abuse the vulnerable women under the pretext of giving them a helping hand.

      “How do you live with that kind of duplicity? Is hypocrisy blissful?”

      How did you manage it yourself through 1958, 1961-61, 1971, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1983-2009?
      Extraordinary, you have callously and remorselessly managed your affairs without the slightest impact on your life.

      I am not sure whether you are even aware of all those barbarous attacks on innocent people and a harmless library. What a cultured man you are.

      You should shove your bogus/sham concerns wherever you usually keep your head, of course you exactly know where.

  • 1
    2

    Intl. Criminal Court is a scum bag deceit organisation according to John Bolton when they attempted to investigate civilian casualties committed by the Americans in Afganistan and by Israel………..

    ICC is seen in a different vein by different countries.

    Wonder whether jehan Perera too see it in the same vein as john Bolton?

    • 3
      0

      thondamany the pathetic

      “ICC is seen in a different vein by different countries.”

      Desmond de Silva Sri Lankan born flamboyant barrister who as a crusader hunted down Liberian former president Charles Taylor had him sent to to the Hague for trial before the International Criminal Court and had him convicted.

      Desmond was later retained by Rajapaksa government as the chairman of Advisory Panel of international lawyers to defend its record during the war.

      Therefore Desmond liked to have it both ways.

      Of all people you are citing John Bolton to support your case.
      You are out of your mind, out there looking for excuses to absolve Mahinda and his fellow alleged war criminals from all charges before they are even indicted in the courts.

  • 1
    2

    The unusual thing here is that some missing people are still alive & in the custody of somebody lawful or unlawful.

    If the said girl was visible in a photograph with the president, why can’t they respond to their beloved parents?

    If they are still in a detention camp, why can’t govt. expose it to media?

    The general idea is that all the missing people can’t be alive after 9 years of the military activity against terrorism; so for the general public the OMP is just nonsense/waste or there’s a hidden foreign hand, having some individuals in their custody.

  • 3
    1

    I don’t think we can ever get any justice from any Sinhalese governments in this matter or any other matters related to Tamils. Even those Sinhalese who were missing during 1970 and 1989-90 did not get any justice from their own race lead government. Srilanka never had war with another country to produce war hero’s. None of the political leaders saccrificed their lives for this country. They are very good at Killing our own people. They had the opportunity to protect our nation from Indian army when the landed in 1987 but they cowardly went inside the barracks after surrendering to Indian army. It is only Pirabhaharan ( war Hero of Srilanka) who fought and sent back home. Even former President Mahinda Percy Rajapakse told openly that he did this war for India. He used srilankan soldiers to kill those srilankan Tamil youths for India. In otherwards, our political leaders are killing our citizens to keep their power.

    • 0
      2

      Ajith

      Your argument seems to be fair @ the outset but who promoted separatist campaign in Sri Lanka, who trained rebels for armed struggle against SL security forces.

      So It’s India responsible for the suffering of Tamil people in SL & if Tamils are ready to give up dreaming for separate country or federal or any type of regional rule, even PCs they can make a paradise life in Sri Lanka.

      There had been unfortunate events due to this seems to be friendly but evil neighbor India but time has come to forget & forgive to each other & start a fresh life as brothers dismantling PCs & diverting that money for development.

      Please get ready for it without cultivating further hatred.

      • 0
        1

        Real Revolutionst,
        Who promoted separatist campaign in Srilanka?
        First of all, you should understand that before British united this country, there were regional governments or kingdoms existed for long time with good relationship between different regional governments. So, Federal or Provincial administration is not a barrier for country to become paradise. It is the discriminative policy of Sinhalese governments and violence against Tamils by Sinhalese are the reasons for the call for federal arrangement and it was agreed by Sinhalese leadership but these agreements were blocked by Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalist.

        Who trained rebels for armed struggle against SL security forces?Sinhalese youth took up the arms before Tamil Youth took up arms not only once but also twice. Tamil youths took up the arms themselves but 1983 riots (genocide) made India to intervene and trained different arms groups to meet their own benefit and once they achieved their goal they finally destroyed the Tamil youths.It is not only Tamils who suffered in this war but also Sinhalese and Muslims as well. The whole country is suffering and it will continue to suffer unless you Sinhalese realise the truth. Do you think Srilanka is now become paradise? Tamils do not do anything. Sinhalese will fight themselves and destroy themselves and this nation.

  • 0
    0

    Please browse the following link
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kanakarayankulam-oic-assaults-and-hospitalizes-children/
    The Vasanthakumar, Shamila, son Kirubakaran (16), daughter Kiriya (13) AND baby daughter mentioned here could have ‘disappeared’. They are there and this is a breakthrough.
    The family cannot have recourse to justice.
    This is what Jehan is working hard at. Why do some find it thorny?

    By the way, is the OIC a hero?

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