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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2620

Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Commences Operation

Colombo, 18 March, (

As a transitional justice arrangement OMP has been established by an Act of Parliament with perpetual succession to investigate the missing persons not only in the North and East, but also in the other parts of the country.

OMP is major milestone in the reconciliation process as it attempts to address the grievances, suffering and pains of those missing families through a truth seeking and investigative process to ensure emotional closure and to assure lasting peace and reconciliation.

The OMP commenced operations with the appointment of Commissioners on February 28, 2018 said Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation.

OMP will not benefit one community, but cuts across all ethnicities and religions

Tears and pains have no ethnicity, no religion, and no race and all tears are the same. The missing families not only suffer because of their missing loved ones, but also because they do not know whether they are dead or alive. The missing people not only belong to one District or one Province, but belong to all Districts and Provinces. They went missing in 70's, 80's and in the 90's including those went missing during youth insurrections and during conflict encompassing civilians, soldiers, armed groups and journalists.

The OMP as a first step seeks to investigate missing persons in conflict affected North and East including victims, civilians, armed forces and Police.

Commissioners assume duties

President Maithripala Sirisena as the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation signed the Gazette Notification on September 12, 2017 and declared the operationalization of the OMP Act with effect from September 15, 2017.

In this context, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) with Seven (7) Commissioners have been appointed by the President Maithripala Sirisena on February 28, 2018 on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Constitutional Council (CC) through a transparent and competitive process. 300 over applications were screened by the Constitutional Council by taking consideration of professional competence and exposure, ethnicity, religion, and acceptance to diverse interest groups in the selection of 7 commissioners.

These Commissioners are not only qualified professionals on human rights, humanitarian Laws and with investigative skills but also balanced personalities from different ethnicity, religion and gender.

Independence of the Commission

President in his capacity as both President and the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation on February 28, 2018 briefed the Commissioners on the need to be fair and independent in their approach and informed that the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation will provide all necessary support in terms of financial resources, office space, and other facilities required to enable the Commission to commence its operation independently, objectively and impartially and to fulfill and accomplish the broad mandate set out in the OMP Act No. 14 of 2016, amended by OMP Act No. 9 of 2017.

The OMP Commission is headed by Mr. Saliya Pieris, President's Counsel (PC) a reputed human rights and constitutional Lawyer as the Chairman while the other members include Dr. Sriyani Nimalka Fernando, a Lawyer and well know human rights activist, Major General (Rtd.) Mohanti Antonette Peiris, Ms. Jayatheepa Punniyamoorthy a women rights activist, Mr. Somasiri Liyanage, a Lawyer and held senior positions in public service, Mr. Mirak Raheem a researcher on human rights , and Mr Kanapathipillai Venthan, human rights activist who has worked on human rights with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other partners.

Further, Mr. M.I.M. Rafeek, former Secretary, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs and a retired senior public servant has been appointed as the Secretary to the Commission to facililitate functioning of the commission.

Address Grievances and provide redress and relief

The OMP Act provides for the searching and tracing of missing persons to clarify the circumstances in which such persons went missing and their fate; to make recommendation to the relevant authorities to reduce the incidence of missing persons; to protect the rights and interest of the missing persons and their relatives; to identify proper avenues to redress and to provide assistance to the missing persons or their relatives including psychosocial support; Setting up a database on missing persons; setting up procedures and guidelines for the OMP.

The OMP is not Law enforcement or Judicial agency, but a truth seeking and investigating agency. According to Section 13 clause (2) of the OMP Act , the findings of the OMP shall not give rise to any criminal or civil liability.

Therefore, the OMP does not have the mandate and intention to punish the offenders, but it is a clinic or therapy to address human problems and build confidence, serve as forum for listening grievances, seeking truth, trace missing and providing relief, reparation, psychosocial support and emotional closure, and is seen as a reconciliation process and forms a part of transitional justice said Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation.

OMP in operation

The Commissioners have met thrice to discuss mechnisms and modalities and an office space has been allocated at the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation, No. 34, Narahenpita Road, Nawala, as a transitional arrangement.

Already 13,294 completed applications (Feedback Data Sheet) has been received island-wide through Grama Niladhari (GN) via Divisional and District Administration as at today. Further, applications (Feedback Data Sheet) are awaited to be received. A database has been developed to maintain missing persons records. Already, Rs. 1.4bn has been allocated to the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation by the Parliament as a special Budget proposal for the Year 2018 for the operationalization of the OMP.

The setting up of OMP by itself is an accomplishment and clearly sets out a message that the Government is committed for non-recurrences of such incidence. Based on investigations, the OMP can recommend to the Registrar General to issue a Certificate of Absence or Certificate of Death.

OMP can be considered as a transitional justice process with truth seeking and investigation mechanism to search and trace the whereabouts of missing persons, recommend healing, reparation and psychosocial support and ensure non-recurrence with a view to promote reconciliation, peace building through emotional closure to redress the pains and wounds of past legacies said Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation.

- Asian Tribune -

Mr.V.Sivagnanasothy -  Secretary, Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation.
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