The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) in Sri Lanka, established to address the many cases of missing and disappeared, has recommended the Government provide urgent and immediate relief to the families of the involuntarily disappeared as their current socio-economic situation is dire.
The OMP, which prepared an interim report on their work during the past six months, handed over the report to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday and released it to the public online yesterday.
The interim report, which also recommends interim measures to provide relief and reparation to the families affected by the disappearances of their loved ones, said 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 and a key set of measures is required in the interim to provide urgent and immediate relief to the families.
The report also noted that in addition, there is an overwhelming demand and need for investigation and prosecution of enforced disappearances.
“These are not merely crimes of the past but are of a continuing nature until the fate of the missing or their whereabouts are clarified,” it said.
Therefore, it is urgent for the State to ensure an adequate legal framework and empower relevant State actors to discharge their functions to ensure prompt and effective investigations and prosecutions.
The OMP has recommended the Government to implement a financial aid program to provide a monthly living allowance of Rs. 6,000 to the immediate family of the missing or disappeared person who have no permanent income.
The OMP has also recommended implementing separate programs for families of the missing or disappeared on debt relief, housing development, educational support, vocational training and livelihood development.
It has also recommended 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.
In recognition of the urgent need for justice and accountability, the OMP recommended enforcing and amending the Disappearances Act to recognise the continuing nature of enforced disappearances and allowing the OMP, along with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and law enforcement authorities, to have access to places where persons are being detained among several other measures.
The OMP recommended the Government to expedite and give highest priority to prosecutions and other ongoing cases involving enforced disappearances and investigate all incidents of arbitrary arrest, torture and deaths in custody.
In recognition of the long-term pain and suffering of families of the missing and the disappeared, as well as the need for the people of Sri Lanka to recognise that many thousands of people belonging to all communities disappeared over several decades, the OMP recommends the Government to designate a ‘National Day for the Disappeared’.
The Government Information Department yesterday released an image of President Maithripala Sirisena reading newspapers in the Parliament library. The Information Department said that while the Joint Opposition struggled to bring in supporters to Colombo for yesterday’s protest, President Sirisena, who visited Parliament to attend an event, took time off to go to the library. (ColomboPage)