After the civil war was brought to finish in 2009 all Sri Lankan governments have since said that missing persons are actually dead. The many families however insist otherwise claiming their missing family member was alive at the time war was brought to finish; but gone missing since, not knowing what has become of them, hence investigations were necessary. The last government took steps to collect information from these families of details known to them on the matter, confessing that investigations on such matters would be a long process and that it would take years than days to resolve.
For the impact of disappearances of loved ones on families is devastating and it influences them in multiple, profoundly painful ways. It leaves them in limbo of not knowing of not even being able to grieve properly. It affects their health, livelihood, mental well-being, and their outlook on life. As a society, all have an obligation to do all in their power to fulfill the right that these families have to know the truth, but certainly nobody has the moral right to politicize the plight of these people..
For this purpose Office on Missing Persons (OMP) was established by the government two years back to fulfill its responsibility to find the truth and launched many communication campaigns to bring attention to the plight of the families of the missing and disappeared. OMP aims to generate awareness and empathy towards the suffering of these families, who are still waiting to learn the truth about the fate of their loved ones.
The OMP is an independent institution with a mandate to establish the truth about the fate of tens of thousands of missing persons is a judicial authority that is focused on specific categories of victims; yet it has a broad, inclusive mandate that covers multiple conflicts and political disturbances. This includes people who disappeared during the insurrections in the South, the conflict in the North and the East and its aftermath (including those Missing in Action) and all victims of enforced disappearances.
The State has a legal obligation to provide families with the truth, and as a society have a moral obligation to do all we can to relieve them of their suffering. Thus investigating the circumstances of disappearances, recommending reparations, facilitating the issuance of Certificates of Absence or Death and maintaining a database of missing persons are among the core functions of the OMP.
The lack of understanding, sympathy and support among state officials and society in general; and there is a lack of awareness of the issues faced by families of missing persons.
However, the opposition to acknowledge the phenomenon of disappearances, as well as the profound suffering of the families, necessitates urgent action to ensure greater public understanding and awareness of the issue. The present government has promised that after the necessary investigations, steps would be taken to issue a death certificate to these missing persons; thereafter their families would be given the support they need to continue with their lives.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as the political representatives of these affected families should avoid others over politicizing the plight of missing person’s families, who continue to reject solutions proposed by successive governments; perhaps doing it for a valid reason, as otherwise would nullify their political agenda. However, TNA should not ignore the fact that solutions would help the affected families to go forward with their life tarted because of the miserable civil-war that was forced on to them. As TNA has an obligation to its people, should go beyond and deal direct with the President and his government to explore avenues to expedite these investigations with the aim of bring this matter to a satisfactory finish at the earliest.