PM assures no digging up of the past

Office of the Missing Persons

by Saman Indrajith

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday told Parliament that the objective of setting up the Office of the Missing Persons was not to dig up the past, but to facilitate reconciliation process by ensuring the right of families of the missing persons to know the truth.

Moving the Office of the Missing Persons (Establishment, Administration and Discharge of Functions) (Amendment) Bill for debate, the Prime Minister said that the OMP would not have any powers to hold criminal inquiries or file legal action and its role was limited to finding the truth about the missing persons and issuing Certificates of Absence where necessary. 

The OMP Act was passed in Parliament August last year. Yesterday’s bill was to incorporate an Amendment proposed by JVP Parliamentarian Bimal Rathnayake to remove a clause that enabled the OMP to enter into agreements with any entity in executing its functions, the Prime Minister said.

The Premier opening the debate, stressed the need to look at "healing the wounds of war" and "uniting as one nation". He added that the government did not intend to dig up the past and engage in lengthy legal procedures.  

"We must put an end to this It not only requires a constitutional settlement and return of lands but also addresses the issue of missing persons and taking remedial action," Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.

The PM said a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) similar to that of South Africa would be set up if necessary. The House would be kept informed of all developments, the PMā€ˆsaid, adding that Steering Committee involved in Constitutional reforms had, to a large extent, reached a consensus on the national question. 

Asked by MP Dinesh Gunawardena whether the President had endorsed the legislation and made the necessary appointments, the Prime Minister said the President would do so after the House passed the amendments. 

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