People in the Jaffna Peninsula, who have shown complete distrust in the Office of the Missing Persons’ (OMP) mission, staged a protest at the Jaffna Weerasingham Hall where the OMP sitting was being held yesterday.
The OMP officials were gathered for a two-day outreach mission, their first in the Jaffna peninsula.
Over 600 persons, from the families of the missing persons, walked into the hall and held photographs of the missing members and began crying and claiming that this Office was never going to look into their grievances because it was backed by the Government. “We want the international community to get involved in the finding of the missing ones,” many mothers had said while weeping.
The protesters say they are exhausted after appearing before previous commissions of inquiry and other investigative mechanisms, making appeals to various State institutions, filing complaints with the Police and Human Rights Commission, making enquiries from the Army and Navy, and appealing to international bodies.
After a while, the protesters walked out of the building leaving about a hundred remaining in the hall to hear what the OMP had to tell them.
It is said more than 500 of the protesters then dispersed to their homes without hearing what OMP Chairman Saliya Peiris had to tell them.
Peiris however discussed matters with nearly 60 members of the civil society, who asked various questions related to the OMP’s powers and how far they could go to reach a solution.
T. Devanand (47), President of Jaffna NGO Council, said that Peiris had told them that they could only make a recommendation to the Government and they have no jurisdiction power.
He told us, “We will work independently to get you what really happened to the missing persons.” The civil society had responded that President Sirisena had already told the Tamils that he had searched for the missing persons and could not find them and urged the Tamils to search for them. Hence, the Tamils already know what the end result of the OMP mission was, they had reiterated.
Devanand said that Peiris also said they would set up five offices in the region and people can lodge complaints and that their secrecy would be protected.
They have also questioned about the OMP not reflecting on the enforced disappearances. Peiris has basically said that they have undertaken a mission through a Parliamentary procedure and they will only do what they are assigned to do. People have also protested about a military personnel being part of the OMP.
On the OMP and the protests, Ilankai Thamil Arasau Katchchi (ITAK) Chairman C. V. K. Sivagnanam claimed that Tamils have lost all hopes in President Maithripala Sirisena who wasting his time trying to patch up the cracks in his own party. “It’s clearly shows he has not understood the aspirations of the Tamil people of this country,” he noted.
Pointing that the OMP is actually a step forward, with its chairman Saliya Peiris, who is on the mission, the ITAK chairman asked, “but what is the end result. People are frustrated, mainly because a clear mindset is not created in them. They are partly unaware of what the OMP mission could offer them, but having gone through such sittings in the past, with no end result, they have become restless.”