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* Presidential Commission probing disappearances in Sri Lanka begins hearings in the East
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 07:15 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 20, Colombo: The Presidential Commission investigating the alleged disappearances of persons in conflict affected areas commenced its first public sittings in the Eastern part of the country in the Batticaloa District today.

The public hearings will take place from March 20-22, in the towns of Chenkallady, Vakarai and Batticaloa, covering 56 Grama Niladhari Divisions in the district.

The Commission will hear 74 complaints today at Chenkalady Divisional Secretariat. It will hear complaints in Kiran and Vakarai Friday and in Batticaloa Divisional Secretariat on Saturday.

At the sittings the Commission will hear oral submissions of those persons who have already submitted their complaints and will register any new complainants on the days of the public sittings. A date for hearing those complaints would be notified to the complainant.

The Presidential Commission has the mandate to investigate cases of persons from the Northern and Eastern Provinces who went missing during the period 1990-2009.

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. Another 984 people made submissions from Feb. 14-17, 2014, when the Commission conducted its sittings in the Jaffna District.

The Commission appointed by the President on 14 August 2013, has so far received a total of approximately 16,000 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 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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