Tamils boycott Trinco sittings of domestic commission on missing persons

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 February 2015, 17:52 GMT]
The first day sittings of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons commenced at Kuchchave'li Divisional Secretariat auditorium Saturday morning. Only four or five Tamil complainants gave evidence as the majority of Tamil complainants boycotted the sitting with the demand of international investigations into the complaints. The Tamils who boycotted the sitting on Saturday were seen in front of the Kuchchave'li Divisional Secretariat, holding placards written in Tamil. They were demanding that the victims should be heard by a UN team and not by any commission appointed by the government in Colombo.

Protest in Trinco

Around 150 war-victims, most of them Tamil women, who are still searching for their family members following extra-judicial abductions or arrests by the occupying military of Colombo, took part in the boycott campaign. Even the few Tamils who attended the hearings joined hands with the protesters.

The sittings in Trincomalee commenced after the new regime in Colombo extended the terms of reference of the PCMP, which was appointed by former SL president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Protest in Trinco

Fr Veeresan Yogeswaran, the director of Centre for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Trincomalee, handed over an explanation to the Commission stating the reasons for the boycott.

“Concerns have been raised previously about the Government’s initiative to issue death certificates for enforced disappearances in parallel to the work of this commission. The line of questioning adopted by the commissioners in past hearings also indicates that the commission is primarily interested in inquiring into the socio-economic support provided to relatives of those forcibly disappeared as opposed to tracing the whereabouts of those who have been made to disappear,” Fr Yogeswaran said in his letter handed over to the Commission.

“The role of the international experts has also not been made clear. Recent reports suggest that one of the international experts so appointed was also hired by the then Sri Lankan Government to advice them on how to handle international community pressure on human rights issues, clearly pointing to a conflict of interest in his appointment as an expert. So far the commission or the Government have not responded adequately to any of these issues,” the letter further stated.

Protest in Trinco

A US Embassy official was also present this time to witness the hearings in addition to an official from the Embassy of Switzerland, news sources in Trincomalee said.

The second day sittings of the commission are scheduled on Sunday, March 01, at the same venue. Other two days of sittings are scheduled on March 03 and March 04 at the auditorium of the Trincomalee District Secretariat. The protestors are expected to step up their boycott campaign, news sources in Trincomalee said.

The Tamil Civil Society Forum, various women groups of missing persons and citizens committees extended their support to the call for boycotting the domestic investigations.

Civil society representatives from Trincomalee district and Mannaar district and a group of people who came with Northern Provincial Councilor Ms Ananthi Sasitharan took part in the protest on Saturday.

Protest in Trinco

Protest in Trinco
Ms Ananthy Sasitharan declared that the Tamil people have lost their trust in any form of domestic commission appointed by Colombo. “Tamil people have denounced domestic commissions even with international monitoring. What we demand now is only international investigations. If the Sri Lankan government continues to refuse access to OISL to conduct its investigations by visiting the island, let the world know that,” Ms Ananthy Sasitharan said.

“I have appeared in front of the LLRC. I have even presented my case to the SL presidential commission. I have sought all possible domestic avenues. Three years have lapsed without any action by the Sri Lankan legal system on my case. It is after this bitter lesson, I opted to place my witness to the OISL at Geneva,” Ananthy Sasitharan said.

In the meantime, nominated TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran has again gone on record stating that he was backing domestic investigations with OHCHR monitoring causing confusion on TNA's position.

A section of ITAK politicians, who had earlier urged the victims not to trust the PCMP, caused confusion by asking the victims to present their cases at the sittings in Trincomalee at the last minute.

The TNA opposition leader at the Eastern Provincial Council Mr S Thandayuthapani was blamed by the protesters for adopting the line of Mr Sumanthiran in calling the victims to witness in front of the PCMP.

However, only four or five Tamil victims were present to witness in front of the commission on Saturday.

Protest in Trinco
Protest in Trinco



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