Sri Lanka parliament sets up office to trace war missing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s parliament Thursday approved a bill to set up a special office to trace thousands of people still missing seven years after the end of its ethnic war.

The parliament unanimously approved the bill entitled — "Office on missing persons (establishment, administration and discharge of functions)" — despite members of the so-called "joint opposition" trying to scuttle it.

However, with no majority to defeat the bill, MPs loyal to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa created a rumpus in the assembly, forcing its temporary suspension.

When granted time to express their view on the bill, the dissident MPs refused to accept the offer, at which stage Speaker Karu Jayasuriya put the bill to a vote and had it passed without any opposition.

Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera presented the bill after the cabinet had approved the creation of an office of missing persons (OMP) with wide powers to investigate the disappearance of more than 20,000 people.

The minister said a vast number of cases remain unsolved despite the end of the decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009.

The JVP saw the creation of the OMP as essential to ensure non-recurrence and deliver justice to those missing.

The OMP will be asked to recommend compensation and clear the way for next of kin to take legal action against anyone responsible for the disappearance of their loved ones.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told members of the ethnic Tamil minority earlier this year that the thousands who are still missing may be dead.

"There are lists of missing people and I am afraid most of them may not be among the living," Wickremesinghe said in the northern city of Jaffna on Thaipongal day.

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The army crushed separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in a no-holds-barred offensive, sparking allegations that troops killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war. (COLOMBO, August 11, 2016)

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