President Maithripala Sirisena during a recent interaction with the editors and heads of media institutions said that a special programme would be implemented to probe into the disappearances in the North.
The President’s remarks come in the wake of continuous protests in Kilinochchi and Vavuniya where mothers and wives of the disappeared have protested for over a month.
While the President’s observations and remarks could be welcomed, the question which arises from his statements is that how different and effective this special plan or programme would be from the previous mechanisms.
The previous Presidential Commission to investigate into the disappearances, headed by Justice Maxwell Paranagama ended its process abruptly so that the process could be taken over by the yet to be established Office of Missing Persons (OMP).
However, with the delay in establishing the OMP, the families of those who have been reported missing have begun to lose their patience and have called for immediate action.
The President during his interaction stated that he would go through the previous reports submitted by the respective commissions that probed the matter after which he would implement the special programme.
The important factor is that this move too should not be just another attempt that would end up with a mere report.
The issue of the disappeared has been haunting their families and the country ever since the war ended and has become a crucial discussion point in the country’s road towards a durable solution for the ethnic crisis.
Many of these people have been disappeared for years. Anything could have happened to them. There were also speculations of some of them fleeing Sri Lanka to other countries in order to obtain refugee status.
All these possibilities and avenues have to be probed. However, the new mechanism that the President has spoken about should not test the patience of these people who have already waited for a long time for answers.
Locating the missing is not an easy process. The parents and the relatives claim that some of them had gone missing after they had surrendered to the forces at the final phase of fighting. They claim that the search was complicated as there were no records indicating their arrests or their whereabouts.
However, locating them is not what these mothers want. They want to what happened to their sons and daughters who they did not see for years.
“We just want to know what happened. Are they alive? If they are, then we need to see them at least once before we die,” the mothers demand.
The government had also sought an extension of two years to fulfill its undertakings to the United Nations which was granted at the recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
The President told the media heads that the government would address most of the issues without harming the integrity and sovereignty of the country.
What is important is to ensure that the government does not lose the faith the minorities placed on it when they elected it.
The victory was largely due to the trust the Tamils and Muslims placed on the government.