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Sri Lanka: The Office on Missing Persons post-2020: Who and What is it for?

Chulani Kodikara | Published on January 13, 2022

Project: Gender, Governance, and Peacebuilding: Institutional Reform in Jordan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka

Gotabaya Rajapaksa commenced his Presidential election campaign in 2019 with the very same rhetoric of Sinhala Buddhist triumphalism and denial of disappearances that had defined the post-war regime of his brother Mahinda. He has continued to deny disappearances after his election in November 2019 (Kodikara 2019). In January 2020, at a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, he stated that all missing persons are dead, and that the government would make arrangements to issue death certificates to family members (Srinivasan 2020).

So why is the present government continuing to maintain the OMP? Why this change of heart after the elections? Is the government sincerely committed to addressing demands for truth and justice for disappearances during “different eras”? If the government is not interested in pursuing a genuine process of truth seeking and reconciliation, why bother with a costly mechanism such as the OMP?

Image: Sri Lankan military and intelligence personnel film and photograph witnesses before the Presidential Commission to Investigate Into Complaints Regarding Missing Persons in Poonakary, Sri Lanka on 29 September 2014. Vikalpa | Groundviews | CPA   CC BY 2.0

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