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* Presidential Commission probing disappearances in Sri Lanka concludes hearings in East
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 08:12 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 23, Colombo: The Presidential Commission investigating the alleged disappearances of persons in conflict affected areas concluded its first public sitting in the East yesterday (March 22).

The Commission appointed to investigate cases of alleged disappearances of persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces during the period 1990 - 2009 received submissions from 129 people from Chenkallady, Vakarai and Batticaloa in the Eastern Province.

The Commission has also received 1,289 new complaints during the hearings that took place from March 20 to March 22, 2014. These new complaints were registered by Tamil-speaking staff assigned by the Commission.

The Commission's Secretary Mr. H.W. Gunadasa said the complainants will be given a date to come before the Commission.

The Commission appointed by the President on 14 August 2013, so far has received approximately 16,000 complaints from all parts of the country. It has analyzed 5,799 complaints and entered into a computerized database. Those cases will be scheduled for public hearings.

The Commission will also launch a website in the near future enabling the public to access information on the Commission's work.

According to the Commission, of the submissions received so far from hearings in Jaffna and Kilinochchi, several cases have been handed over to the Attorney General's Department for legal action. If the need arises, the Commission said it will appoint its own independent investigation team to inquire into specific cases, the Secretary said.

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 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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