The President made the remark in a recent meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator, according to a statement from his office. Outlining his plans to address the issue of missing persons, “he explained that these missing persons are actually dead. Most of them had been taken by the LTTE or forcibly conscripted. The families of the missing attest to it. However, they do not know what has become of them and so claim them to be missing,” the statement said. After the “necessary investigations”, steps would be taken to issue death certificates of the missing persons, while their families would be supported, the official media release said.
Families of scores of disappeared persons in Sri Lanka’s war-affected north and east have been relentlessly agitating by the roadside, for nearly three years now, demanding the whereabouts of their relatives, including many that families say they saw surrendering to the Army.
Family members have refused to accept their relatives’ disappearance as “death”, without seeing the body. Some are pursuing court action.
In 2017, representatives of protesting families met with former President Maithripala Sirisena, who promised to release a list of names of those who surrendered to the Army. The families did not receive it. As part of its commitments to the UN Human Rights Council, the former government set up the Office on Missing Persons in 2018 to probe complaints of disappearances — some estimates point to nearly 65,000 — in the war-affected north and east, as well as in the southern parts of the island where several thousands were reported missing, including during the leftist Janata Vimukti Peramuna-led insurgencies against the state.
The OMP held consultations across the island, but its future after regime change remains unclear, amid reports of the new government possibly revising the OMP Act and exploring a compensation package for the families.
A month before his election, President Rajapaksa told a media conference that he would not honour Sri Lanka’s commitments to the UNHRC on post-war accountability and reconciliation. Asked then about the fate of those who surrendered to the Army when he was Defence Secretary in his brother President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “that’s only an allegation”.
Further, in his recent meeting with the UN representative, President Rajapaksa discussed matters pertaining to poverty alleviation, climate control, digitising government offices, and better management of refugees, his office said in the statement.
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by thehindu.com has not been edited by SLM staff)