Former President and Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga reiterated the commitment of the Government to address the missing persons issue.
Speaking at a media briefing, Kumaratunga said that repeated calls by families of the disappeared to the Government and the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation in early 2015 resulted in actively pursuing a process to facilitate a “Certificate of Absence” (COA) in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.
Kumaratunga emphasized that the “Certificate of Absence” will help families affected by the war, including families of the Military and Police personnel who are still declared “Missing in Action” and other civilians whose whereabouts are unknown.
The issuance of a death certificate entitles the next of kin of those affected by conflict or natural disasters, to various benefits accorded by the State.
In the case of missing persons, as a death certificate has not been issued, the family members do not receive benefits.
The COA could be used to apply for benefits under any social welfare scheme and temporarily manage the property, assets of the missing person and act as a provisional guardian for the dependent children of the missing person under the supervision of the district court.
This will help families of the affected to be entitled for benefits and resolve social issues which have arisen as a direct result of not being able to trace the whereabouts of a loved one.
The application for a Certificate of Absence could be made by a relative to the missing person who is a spouse, children (adopted, non-marital, step), parents, full or half brothers or sisters, in laws, grand parents and grand children.
The COA will be issued initially for a period of 02 years with the possibility of extending it. The COA has been used in several other countries that have faced similar situations.
Cabinet, which met yesterday, approved the draft legislation enabling the issuance of Certificates of Absence.
The draft legislation which involves an amendment to the Registration of Deaths (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 19 of 2010 will now be gazetted and the process of presentation to Parliament will commence. (Colombo Gazette)