Feb 20, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today extended the mandate issued to the Presidential Commission to investigate cases of alleged disappearances of persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces by six months to August 12, 2014.
The move to extend the term of the Commission comes amid the mounting pressure from international community on the government to launch an independent and credible investigation into the alleged human rights violations ahead of the forthcoming United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva where a United States sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka is certain to be adopted.
The Sri Lankan government has been pressured to conduct an independent investigation into the cases of disappearances and abductions during the war.
The three-member Commission is chaired by attorney Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama and comprising former Director General of Census and Statistics Priyanthi Suranjana Vidyaratne and former member of the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka Manohari Ramanathan. Both Paranagama and Ramanathan were members of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
The Commission appointed by the President on 14 August 2013, is mandated to inquire into and report on alleged abductions or disappearances during the period June 10, 1990, to May 19, 2009.
It has been given the authority to conduct inquiries and investigations necessary, and submit a report to the President.
The Missing Persons Commission held its first public hearings in Kilinochchi in the Northern Province from January 18-21, 2014, where it heard complaints from 440 people.
The first rounds of public hearings in the Jaffna District concluded on February 17, 2014. According to the Commission, 984 people made submissions from Feb. 14-17, 2014, in the towns of Chavakachcheri, Kopay and Jaffna.
Following the conclusion of the sittings in Jaffna the Chairman of the Commission said the Commission was well received in Jaffna.
Responding to concerns over the weekend that witnesses could be intimidated, Paranagama had said that the Commission would not hesitate to take severe action against any person trying to intimidate witnesses who appeared before the Commission.
The Commission has, to date, received nearly 16,000 complaints from all parts of the country.
The work of the Missing Persons Commission addresses recommendation 9.51 of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).