By March 4, 20180 CommentsReport

Office on Missing Persons Provides ‘Audacity Of Hope’ to Sri Lanka

Extract from the article – 
Four Main Functions Of OMP
In a public statement issued earlier in August, the Foreign Minister explained basic details about the envisaged Office of Missing Persons Bill. In that statement he said: “The Bill outlines four main functions for the OMP — (i) Searching and tracing of missing persons; (ii) Clarifying the circumstances in which such persons went missing and their fate; (iii) Making recommendations to relevant authorities to reduce such incidents of missing and disappeared persons and (iv) Identifying proper avenues of redress. As such, it is not a law-enforcement or judicial agency but a truth-seeking investigative agency..”

Mangala Samaraweera went on to say: “The Office on Missing Persons is a truth-seeking investigative agency. It does not make judgements on disputes.. In fact, the legislation states that “the findings of the OMP shall not give rise to any criminal or civil liability.” Its primary function is to establish whether a missing person is dead or alive and, if he or she is dead, discover when, how and where they died.”

Despite the aura of hope and optimism exuded by ex-Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera progress on the OMP front was very slow. The process was extremely slow but then this has been the tragedy of this blessed island since independence – Whatever that is bad is done very quickly while whatever that is good is done at a painstakingly slow pace. So the OMP process moved forward not by leaps and bounds but in fits and starts. Though the legislation was passed in August 2016 to set up the office of missing persons, it began assuming operational form only a year later.

President Maithripala Sirisena signed the gazette notification operationalising the OMP in September 2017. The Acting Secretary General of the Constitutional Council called for applications to appoint members to the OMP in October 2017. Applications were called from persons with previous experience in; fact-finding or investigation, human rights law, international humanitarian law, humanitarian response, or possessing other qualifications relevant to the carrying out the functions of the OMP.

There were over 300 applications and the selections were made through an open and competitive process conducted by the Constitutional Council. After intensive perusal and much deliberation, the Constitutional Council which includes political leaders with diverse viewpoints such as Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP), Rajavarothayam Sampanthan (ITAK), John Seneviratne (SLFP), Champika Ranawaka (JHU) and Vijitha Herath (JVP) arrived at the unanimous decision.


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