COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Missing Persons’ Commission headed by retired Justice Maxwell Paranagama, has requested the government to extend its term by a year from February 15, 2016 as it still has thousands of cases to investigate.
Justice Paranagama told Express on Tuesday, that out of the 14,000-odd representations from civilians before it, interviews have been conducted only in 5,000-odd cases so far.
“And we haven’t even touched the 5600 representations from the families of disappeared Security Forces personnel,” he pointed out.
The commission was set up during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime on August 15, 2013, and its term has since been extended more than once. In September 2015 the UN human rights chief, Prince Zeid, threw a bombshell by asking the government to wind it up and replace it with a more “credible” body. But Colombo paid no heed to this demand as the October 2015 UNHRC joint resolution on Lanka made no mention of it.
Paranagama said that his panel has so far referred 300 to 350 cases out of the 14,000 civilian cases for further investigations by competent government agencies.
“The panel itself is conducting in-depth studies by visiting the families in their homes. This work is being supervised by a retired High Court judge. Right now house visits are being conducted in Jaffna,” he added.
One of the main complaints has been that people who had surrendered to the Security Forces in front of the public had disappeared.
“Many said that the missing persons had shown White Flags or waved a white cloth while approaching the Security Forces. Besides these cases, we are also examining the Channel 4 video. One of the complainants is the mother of a child mentioned in the video,” Paranagama said.
Explaining why cases relating to Security Forces personnel have not been taken up till now, the former High Court judge said that this is because the bulk of the complaints of disappearances are from civilians in the Northern and Eastern provinces (both Tamil-speaking).