Commissioners of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) held their third session with families of the disappeared in the war-affected district of Mullaitivu yesterday, as it sets about designing its operations and approach to tackling one of the biggest caseloads of enforced disappearances in the world.
The Commissioners’ arrival in a region that was the final theatre of battle between the LTTE and Government forces in 2009, was also met with protests by families of the disappeared who have engaged in roadside demonstrations for the better part of a year, demanding answers about missing loved ones.
The protestors claimed they lacked confidence in the OMP because it had not shown results on its operations to find missing persons. They did not want to be hoodwinked by these mechanisms any longer, the demonstrators holding placards cried.
The OMP Commissioners who stopped to talk with the protesting families before walking into the Divisional Secretariat for their meetings, promised to come back out and hold discussions with demonstrators too.
Following the meetings inside the Secretariat which were attended by about 60 families of the missing from Mullativu, the Commissioners went outside to speak with the protesting families for about an hour. The demonstrators were from both Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.
“The OMP met the families of the disappeared at Mullaitivu and engaged for one hour with protesting families who were boycotting the event,” OMP Chairman Saliya Pieris said on his official Twitter account after the meetings.
The Commissioners also held a press briefing, explaining the purposes of their visit, prior to leaving Mullaitivu. The Commissioners said they had travelled to the formerly embattled region to get input from civil society groups and families of the disappeared themselves, about how the mechanism should operate in order to launch investigations into the thousands of cases of enforced disappearances during the war and two youth insurrections in the country.
Several families raised concerns with the OMP about the list of surrendees at the end of the war, which the Government earlier promised to obtain from the security establishment, one OMP commissioner told the Sunday Observer.
The OMP Commissioners’ meetings were split into two two-hour sessions, with one held at 9 a.m. and the other at 11a.m. at the Mullaitivu Divisional Secretariat.
Families from Thunukkai, Manthai East, Weli Oya, Oddusuddan, Puthukuduirippu and Maritime Pattu met with the OMP Commissioners yesterday, Pieris said.
All seven Commissioners of the Office of Missing Persons participated in the consultations in Mullaitivu.