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Missing persons’ relatives handover petition to Sirisena
Resettlement and reconciliation on the agenda

Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Opposition, Attorney-at-Law R. Sampanthan  has written to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres raising concerns about land related issues pertaining to the Government of Sri Lanka’s ongoing resettlement process and the current state of affairs with regard to reconciliation.

Copies of the said letter have also been sent to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN office in Colombo and to all the foreign diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka including the United States Embassy.

The ongoing resettlement process in the North and East of the country involves the resettlement of the original settlers, subsequent settlers and internally displaced persons in original lands to which the original settlers are in possession of the original deeds of (or in certain cases not, because the documents had been lost during the process of forcible eviction or fleeing that took place during the three decades war), in lands which had during the war been occupied by the military, and in alternate lands found for the purpose in the said areas.

Much of the reconciliation process for the Tamil political representation hinges on the ongoing process of bringing about constitutional reforms, especially those pertaining to the devolution of powers from the centre (the Central Government) to the periphery (the Provincial Governments) under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, autonomy regarding Police powers and land powers (the full implementation of the 13th Amendment) being granted to the Provincial Councils, the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and the conducting of a referendum before the people to approve or disapprove of the proposed new Constitution. Sections of the country including the Joint Opposition and the Buddhist clergy have opposed the move. The two main political parties of the coalition Government too are yet to arrive at a consensus regarding the matter and are presently at loggerheads concerning the issue.

Elsewhere, the Supreme Court’s recent judgment in Hikkadu Koralalage Don Chandrasoma v. Mavai S. Senathiraja and K. Thurairasasingham (Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi – ITAK) and Others could to a degree provide an indication of how the apex Court would swing if the question of a federal form of Government being implemented in the country comes before it. The superior Court in this instance addressing the question of whether advocating for a federalist form of Government via the devolution of powers to the Provinces within the framework of a unitary State amounted to calling for a separate State, held that such was not tantamount to espousing separatism. Chief Justice President’s Counsel Priyasath Dep wrote that the ITAK, the main constituent party of the TNA, supported the establishment of a federal State within a united Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the Association for the Relatives of the Enforced Disappeared handed over a petition addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena demanding that the Government provide them with an urgent official answer with regard to the fate of their loved ones. The perpetrators of the crime of enforced disappearances are yet to be punished by a Court of law. Head of the said Association, Yogarasa Kanagaranjini called for information pertaining to all classified detention centres operated by the Government, the names of the detainees including political prisoners detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, the status of the investigations or judicial proceedings instituted into allegations against the detainees, to be divulged to them. Sirisena had previously met the relatives of the victims on June 12. Sirisena had reportedly promised them that he would issue instructions to the National Security Council to release the information regarding persons who had surrendered to the security forces during the terminal phase of the war in 2009.