The legislature voted 59-43 to approve a broad reparations Bill, which seeks to establish an independent office that will compensate survivors as well as victims’ next of kin.
Former strongman President Mahinda Rajapakse’s followers voted against the Bill, arguing that it amounted to compensating separatist Tamil rebels who were crushed in a no-holds-barred military campaign in May 2009.
The long-delayed legislation had been a key demand of international observers urging reconciliation in the island nation, where divisions between minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese persist. The office will decide on potentially tens of thousands of compensation claims from those afflicted by fighting, which ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.
By Saman Indrajith
The Office for Reparations Bill was passed in Parliament yesterday with a majority of 16 votes.
It received 59 votes in favour and 43 votes against following a division called by the Joint Opposition. The UNP, SLFP members in the government and TNA voted in favour of the Bill. The JVP MPs were absent. The Joint Opposition together with the ‘SLFP Group of 15’ voted against the bill.
The bill was moved for the debate by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Foreign Affairs Minister Thilak Marapana moved at the end of the debate. The definition of “aggrieved persons” in the Bill was amended in conformity with the Supreme Court determination.
The Office for Reparations will be the second official mechanism to be set up to deal with missing persons issue and post-war allegations.
The Bill enables the provision of individual and collective reparations for aggrieved persons. As per the Bill, “aggrieved persons” mean persons who have suffered a violation of human rights or humanitarian law, their relatives and missing persons.
The scope of legislation applies to the conflict in the North and the East, as well as “any political unrest or civil disturbance, systematic gross violations of the rights of individuals, groups or communities of people of Sri Lanka, and enforced disappearances”…………………… Office for Reparations Bill passed