Groundviews

Searching for Answers: The Road to the OMP

Featured image courtesy VikalpaSL

August 30 is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

This year has seen the passage of legislation to enable the set-up of an Office of Missing Persons (OMP). While the passage of the OMP Act is a step forward in terms of transitional justice, it was a long and arduous journey to get here.

There have been numerous Commissions set up in the past to investigate into the missing, but the process has been beset with delays, and many continue to wait for answers.

It was perhaps fitting that the Parliamentary debate leading to the OMP Bill being passed was itself disrupted, with Foreign Minister Samaraweera being surrounded by supporters in order to ensure that he could finish giving his speech.

While setting up the OMP might seem like a positive step, there were several pitfalls. Rights organisations have flagged the lack of public consultations leading up to the Bill being presented in Parliament. As a result there has been some mistrust on the part of the missing, who have themselves come before many Commissions to present their story – with little to no results.

There was also a deliberate campaign to block the passage of the Bill, with former President Mahinda Rajapakse saying that those who supported it would ‘betray the armed forces of the country.’ In an attempt to counter the confusion and misinformation, Groundviews also interviewed several people on the consultation process, earlier in the month.

These events have been recorded in a timeline, which can be viewed here or below: