Sept 11 (ER) On September 5, 2018, the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) handed its interim report to President Maithripala Sirisena at the Parliament. OMP Chairman Saliya Peiris handed over the report to the President
recommending that the Government provide urgent and immediate relief to the families of the involuntarily disappeared, as their current socio-economic situation was dire; the implementation of a financial aid programme to provide a monthly allowance of SLR 6000 to the surviving spouse, children and parents of these missing persons, who have no permanent income; introduction of a scholarship scheme under the Ministry of Education for the children of missing persons in the form of a monthly allowance of SLR 2000 to cover essential education expenses required for the completion of their primary and secondary education; and the introduction of an employment quota of one percent within the state sector for family members of the missing.
The OMP was operationalized on March 13, 2018, to determine the status of all persons who went ‘missing’ during the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). According to the Paranagama Commission Report, around 21,000 people went missing during the civil war. Accepting the fact that enforced disappearances had occurred in the country, on August 30, 2018, OMP Chairman Pieris, at an event to mark the International Day of the Enforced Disappearances at the J. R. Jayawardene Centre in Colombo, observed
If we speak of the numbers of missing in Sri Lanka, it is one of the highest not only in Asia but also in the world. We have to accept that people had been forcibly disappeared for at least four decades. Accepting this is the only way to achieve reconciliation.
Significantly, to expand national unity and reconciliation projects island-wide, and to create a discourse on reconciliation at the grass roots level, the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 22 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on July 3, 2018. The ONUR Director General M.S Jayasinghe and respective officials of CSOs participated in the signing. The main objective of the MoU was to expand the “Heal the Past, Build the Future” project in 17 selected Districts. The chosen Districts are Jaffna, Anuradhapura, Ratnapura, Ampara, Mannar, Galle, Kalutara, Kilinochchi, Kurunegala, Matara, Monaragala, Nuwara, Eliya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya.
Meanwhile, the Office for Reparations Bill ratified by the Cabinet on June 13, 2018, for the payment of reparations to war-affected and missing persons, was submitted to Parliament on July 17, 2018. However, on August 7, 2018, the Supreme Court shot down two clauses of the Bill on the grounds that they vested judicial powers in the Office for Reparations. According to the Court, Sections 27 (a) and 27 (A) (iii) of the Bill were inconsistent with Sections 4 (D) and Section 3 of the Constitution and therefore the Court stated that the Bill has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the total number of members in the Parliament, in order to bring about a Constitutional amendment. The SC also recommended that the Bill should be approved by the people through a referendum and that the inconsistency could be removed if amendments were made in line with the directions it had given.