The Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons Maxwell Paranagama during one of the sittings of the Commission in Jaffna has cautioned the complainants to be watchful over the unidentified persons who claim themselves as military ‘intelligence’ operatives.
Commissioner Paranagama at the Chankanai sittings in Jaffna a few days ago was compelled to caution the families of the missing persons following the complaints he received from some of the witnesses who appeared before him had pointed out that they were intimidated by the so-called military ‘intelligence’ operatives.
The families of the missing persons from the North and East who had participated at a preparatory meeting a few days before the commencement of the Commission in Jaffna were also monitored by the so called ‘intelligence’ operatives and a local newspaper in Jaffna, which had reported about their presence at the meeting, was also threatened by a group of persons claiming themselves intelligence operatives.
Abductions and extra judicial killings
From the very beginning of the turbulent situation in the North and East with the collapse of the law and order in the two provinces, abductions and extra judicial killings had been the order of the day for nearly three decades. Apart from the North and East provinces hundreds of persons had even been abducted from other regions without the trace of what had really happened to them.
However, according to a significant number of complaints received by the Presidential Commission, that it was during the final phase of the civil war scores of people including LTTE cadres who had surrendered to the Security Forces disappeared since May 2009.
The Commissions on Disappeared Persons were first formed in the early nineties to probe into the disappearances not only in the North and East but also from the other provinces in the South to probe into the disappearances during the JVP insurrection period in the mid-eighties.
As the reports of the commissions formed during President Chandrika’s period were shelved without any outcome from their findings, the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons which was created during the Rajapaksa regime in year 2013 led by Commissioner Maxwell Paranagama is monitored closely even by the international community unlike the functions of the previous Commissions and Commissioner Paranagama in his interim report submitted along with the Udalagama Report recently has mentioned on seeking the legal expertise from the international community without hampering the judicial independence and the sovereignty of the country on probing into the alleged war crimes and human rights violations.
Since a large number of complaints emerged from the Northern Province with regard to the missing persons, Commissioner Paranagama has even felt the uneasy situation which prevails even now in the Northern Province and alerted the complainants to be cautious on the so-called ‘military intelligence operatives’ a few days ago.
In another sitting in Jaffna Commissioner Paranagama has even announced that the Commission would look into the secret camps pointed out to the Commission by the complainants.
Though several information had surfaced on secret camps in the past, the existence of those camps when the civil war was in progress and the details on those camps detaining Tamil prisoners were exposed when the representatives of the UN’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited a secret camp with underground cells situated within a Naval facility in Trincomalee last month.
While exposing the existence of the secret camp in Trincomalee, the UN group has also mentioned in its report that it looked forward for updates on further investigations carried out into the secret camps.
Expressing its sympathy towards hundreds of family members of the disappeared persons who had met the UN Working Group during its brief stay in the Island, it has been mentioned that those families have waited too long to know the truth about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones.
Calling for a new body with total independence to carry out the investigation into the missing persons, the UN Working Group also recommended that the government should adopt immediately a comprehensive policy to search for all of those who disappeared.
Delays in establishing the truth
As the UN Working Group on its Sri Lankan assignment had promptly mentioned about the delays in establishing the truth with regard to the missing persons, the complainants to the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in Jaffna with reluctance appeared before the Commission to give evidence.
With the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances calling for a new body with total independence to carry out the investigation into the missing persons, the Maxwell Paranagama Commission is compelled to prove its credibility on carrying out its investigations.
It cannot prolong the sittings hearing to the heart breaking stories of the families of the missing persons.
In addition to the hearings, a swift action plan should be worked out by the Commission to expedite the process in search of missing persons.
Already the families affected by war has emphasized on an international mechanism to investigate into alleged war crimes and human rights violations. The UN Working Group which had visited the Island last month had also rightly mentioned that the families of the missing persons had waited too long to know the truth about their loved ones went missing.
Therefore it’s high time for the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons to look into the whole process with the conclusion of the Jaffna sittings and to evaluate now where it stands.