After long and rocky meeting, Govt. agrees to prioritise 15 cases when OMP is set up
Families of the missing and representatives object to TNA MPs at discussion
Sumanthiran says families and their lawyers reached private agreement with Govt. to put their cases ahead of others
By Dharisha Bastians
Senior Government Ministers met 15 families of the disappeared who launched a hunger strike in Vavuniya last month for a meeting at Temple Trees yesterday that was long and rocky, Daily FT learns.
The meeting held at 11.00 a.m. yesterday was chaired by Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake, with Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Resettlement Minister D.M. Swaminathan, State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene and IGP Pujith Jayasundera also participating in the discussion.
TNA MPs M.A. Sumanthiran, Selvam Adaikalanathan and Charles Nirmananathan were also present at the talks, on the invitation of the Government. Ten women with missing family members who participated in the Vavuniya fast, a Catholic priest and Human Rights Lawyer K.S. Ratnavale participated in the meeting with the senior Government ministers.
At the very outset, the representatives for families of the missing objected to the presence of the TNA members at the meeting. However, the Ministers insisted the Tamil MPs were present at its invitation because they were constantly engaging with the Government on issues in the north and east. The TNA MPs eventually left the meeting and Government Ministers then explained to the families that a process was underway to begin a credible investigation into cases of disappearances with the establishment of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP).
However, the agitating group insisted that their cases be given priority in the investigations, Daily FT learns. After 90 minutes of trying to reach an agreement with the families and their representatives, the Law and Order Minister and the Justice Minister also left, allowing State Minister Wijewardene to continue the talks.
Eventually, Minister Wijewardene agreed that when the OMP begins to function, the cases of the 15 families represented at the meeting would be given priority status, Daily FT learns.
Sumanthiran told Daily FT that the TNA had walked out of the meeting on principle, in the larger interest of the community of missing people’s families that the 15-member group did not represent. The group that met the Government yesterday was intent on striking a “private deal”, he claimed. “I heard after the meeting that they got the Government to agree to prioritise their 15 cases when the OMP is set up, ahead of all the other cases,” the Jaffna District Parliamentarian said. The TNA MPs could not have agreed to that, Sumanthiran added. “If there was going to be a prioritisation of cases to be investigated by the OMP, that would have to be based on some criteria,” the TNA MP said.
The families of the disappeared were invited for a discussion yesterday, on the basis of a promise made by Minister Wijewardene, who flew to Vavuniya two weeks ago to urge the protestors to give up their hunger strike and discuss their issues with the Government.