Mar 27, 2019

Why are we confused about the OMP?

One of the biggest challenges we see in our country today is the confusion our people face between what is protection and what is danger. On one hand our government is reassuring the victims of war that we will redress their losses and help them to heal, and on the other hand we are reassuring the ethnic majority that we will protect our country against international tribunals and the prosecution of our war heroes.

It is a worrying balance. The office on missing persons (OMP) should not be confused with danger and threat. The OMP is for truth and fair treatment. It is simply a mechanism to find the truth about individuals gone missing during conflict.

There have been many debates and delays in initiating a strong and focused reconciliation process. In 1999, a study done by the UN found Sri Lanka to have the second highest number of disappearances in the world. What have we done about it? We have had a number of previous commissions. The 1991 commission by Mr. R Premadasa, the 3 commissions appointed by Mrs. Bandaranaike in 1994, the All Island Commission of inquiry in 1998, the Paranagama Commission in 2013. All these were set up and operationalized and yet failed to provide the answers the people are looking for. Governments have come and gone. Time after time promises were made and not kept. But what are we afraid of? Are we afraid to help a mother look for her missing son? Are we afraid to bring comfort to a family who hasn’t seen their father in more than a decade? Had you lost someone, would you feel the same?

Today we see a change this country has not seen before. The OMP Act has been passed in parliament, the commissioners have been appointed and the office is now in operation. Support has been given by the OMP towards the investigations into the mass grave in Mannar. Regional offices have been set up for better access to vicitms. This is a great achievement. It is the result of the feedback given the people themselves. The affected families and civil society groups have come together to voice their thoughts on the OMP and they have been heard. This is a mission that will reach out to every suffering citizen in every corner of the country. From our soldiers who lay down their lives for the nation and the families of servicemen missing in action, to our Tamil community especially in the North and East caught in a lifetime of terror and the sons and daughters of the South who were lost to the bloody suppressions of political violence in the 80s, you are not forgotten. This office is set up for one plain and simple purpose- to find out what has happened to those gone missing and those disappeared and to bring peace to their families who are with us today. How can any Sri Lankan be against this?

Some parties are fighting against this mechanism for political gains. They are a minority and their voices are small. We cannot let their voices be louder than the cries of suffering families. Can they defeat the pleas of a broken-hearted mother and a widowed wife? Do not let them confuse or dissuade you. These same individuals including the former president passionately fought for this cause once before. They may have conveniently forgotten it due to political motivations, but we will not forget. Do not get swayed by the rumors about international pressure. The OMP is not for them. The OMP is for us

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