The first meetings were held in Mannar District on 12 May. The Office must look into the disappearance of more than 20,000 people during almost 30 years of civil war. Meanwhile, families hold protest rallies over the slow pace and modus operandi of the investigation.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Two years after the government promised to set up the Office for Missing Persons (OMP), the agency held its first public consultations.
The Office’s goal is to find out what happened to 20,000 people who went missing during almost 30 years of civil war, including youth, women, children, social activists, and academics.
The first meetings took place in Mannar District on 12 May. More will follow in Matara, Trincomalee, Mullaithivu, Killinochchi, Jaffna, Kandy, Batticaloa and Ampara.
On the side-line of the public hearings, the families of the missing staged a protest across the district over the slow pace of setting up the Office itself, a point recently made by the European Union as well.
Relatives also questioned the OMP’s modus operandi, which in their opinion should find "solutions rather than conduct more consultations".
Still, for Saliya Peiris, who chairs the OMP, the start of the hearings can be considered a success since 250 families took part.
Speaking to the public present at the sessions, the lawyer called on the public to trust the Office. "You are discouraged and frustrated,” he told them, “but you must also be hopeful that you will receive the answers you seek".
Manuel Udayachandra, a Tamil mother, was among those present. Her son Anton disappeared ten years ago and she has not much faith in the administration of justice.
"They always ask us to gather information but they already have everything,” she explains. “We were under military control, so our children were kidnapped by the army. My son was sleeping when he was picked up in the middle of the night."
Jeyawanitha, another Tamil mother, has not heard from her daughter for years. Her hopes of finding her were rekindled in 2014 when she recognised her daughter among a group of young people in an election flyer issued by the camp of then presidential candidate, now president Maithripala Sirisena.
Since then she has been asking for answers, which are not forthcoming. "We want solutions for the missing and the abducted,” she says.
Photo credit: Garikaalan