The Office for National Unity & Reconciliation (ONUR) headed by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga welcomed the report titled “Living With Uncertainty: Needs Of The Families Of Missing Persons In Sri Lanka” released by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) last week which highlighted the plight of families of the missing persons and recommendations for the authorities to consider.
ONUR, which has been established with a mandate of promoting and providing for a society that respects Rule of Law, fundamental rights and freedoms, justice, equality, inclusivity and diversity to achieve lasting Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, has worked with relevant ministries, agencies and organisations in attending to the issues and challenges faced by families of the missing persons.
“The fact the report highlights some of the issues we have taken up at various levels for resolution is reassuring while it also emphasizes that a clear resolution on this subject is important to all affected Sri Lankans including more than 5100 families of the military and Police, predominantly from the South, as well as the war affected people primarily from North and East,” ONUR said.
As a measure towards relieving the uncertainties and agony the families are going through, ONUR in coordination with the relevant institutions, has devised a plan of action to systematically look in to the cases of missing persons in addition to welcoming the families of the missing persons and civil society organisations to positively engage with the government, for the first time since the end of the conflict seven years ago.
To fulfil the need of the families to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones and to investigate each case, a mechanism has been put in place by the government which will see the establishment of an independent Office of Missing Persons (OMP) following enactment by Parliament, expected to be completed by the end of August 2016.
To facilitate access to services and benefits offered by the State to the families of the missing persons in the absence of a Death Certificate, a mechanism to issue a “Certificate of Absence” has been approved by cabinet and the relevant legislation is due to be approved by the Parliament later this month.
ONUR believes that this legal and administrative remedy will benefit the families of the missing persons with their economic needs while dealing with the ambiguity of the status of their loved ones in the interim.
ONUR, in consultation with practitioners, experts and relevant authorities, has set up a Psychosocial Support Task Force which will introduce a range of services to address the Psychosocial needs of the families of missing persons and others who suffer from post conflict trauma as part of the healing process. Implementation of the Action Plan has commenced. (Colombo Gazette)