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* Presidential Commission probing disappearances in Sri Lanka to begin hearings in the East next
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 08:37 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 27, Colombo: The Presidential Commission investigating the alleged disappearances of persons in conflict affected areas will begin its first public sittings in the Eastern part of the country in the Batticaloa District next month.

The Commission is investigating the alleged abductions or disappearances of people who were residents in the Northern and Eastern Provinces during the period 1990-2009.

The public hearings are scheduled to take place from March 20-22, 2014, in the towns of Wakarai, Chenkallady and Batticaloa, covering 56 Grama Niladhari Divisions in the district.

Secretary of the Commission H.W. Gunadasa said this is the first time the Commission is hearing cases in the East, and officials from the Commission will be visiting the district on Monday (March 3) to hold discussions with Divisional Secretaries for preliminary arrangements.

The Commission held its first public sittings in the Kilinochchi District 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.

The Commission has so far received a total of approximately 13,700 complaints from all parts of the country. Of those complaints, approximately 9,300 are of civilian disappearances while 4,300 are of disappearances of security personnel.

The three-member Commission is chaired by attorney Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama and comprises 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.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently extended the mandate issued to the Commission by another six months to August 12, 2014.

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