Bill to set up OMP A draconian law
Posted on July 28th, 2016

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

The name board, “Office of Missing Persons” (OMP) whose Bill that is now before Parliament, sounds innocuous. One might even assume, it is a government run office in collaboration with an organization like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

An office, where those with missing relatives come and the officials try and match records from a cross section of sources such as police, hospitals, immigration and so on and try to locate the missing persons. After all, the existence of such offices is common after a war and even Sri Lanka has had such offices.

However, OMP is not about connecting the missing with their families. In fact, if a missing person is found alive and well – perhaps living in another country, with another family, under an alias – without that person’s expressive consent, that fact cannot be made public. That fact cannot be made public, even if another (officers or men in the security force) is being subjected to an investigation or a punishment on the alleged disappearance of the person.

Then, what is the purpose of the OMP?

Sounding the alarm

President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva, has sounded the alarm – notably through youthukama.com and veteran journalist C.A. Chandraprema from “The Island”, that the OMP has a most sinister objective that will have far reaching consequences for Sri Lanka.
He explains, “In the UNHRC Resolution Sri Lanka co-sponsored with US against Sri Lanka in September 2015, we have agreed as per the Operative Paragraph four, to establish a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non Recurrence, an OMP and an Office for Reparations. We have agreed to give each of these mechanisms the freedom to obtain financial, material and technical assistance from international partners.

“Though, this is labelled as the OMP, it will only concern itself with the disappearances of those in the North and East. Abductions or disappearances that might happen in the South do not come under the OMP’s purview. We can’t assume it because the war was fought in the North and East. It is also not mentioned anywhere that the OMP is concerned with war crime investigations.”

Disappearance of Ekneligoda

It is indeed strange as in the list of irregularities the Sri Lankan military is accused of the much speculated disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda takes prominent place. However, it is speculated that his fate was sealed in the Girithale Camp. Thus, the Ekneligoda case cannot be taken up by the OMP.

“How can the North and East have a different law mechanism to that in the South? But it’s obvious that this is the design of the OMP,” continues Counsel de Silva. “This gives rise to the justified question as to who drafted the Bill. Is it the relevant authoritative Parliamentary entities or the Tamil diaspora?

“It would’ve been logical to create the OMP as an extension of the Police Department or the Attorney General’s Department. Then the officers would be responsible for the Sri Lankan Government and can be made to face the consequences of their actions. Also, for a genuine investigation on the missing persons, we don’t need foreign aid or assistance.

Independent

“Instead, it is to be incorporated by an Act of Parliament. Not only are they independent of the Police Department and the Attorney General’s Department, their findings – no matter how questionable they might be – will have the recognition of a body that has been established by an Act of Parliament.”
Shamindra Ferdinando also flags the OMP as he reports that according to former Media Secretary Charitha Herath, despite the Right to Information Act, the OMP “wouldn’t obviously be answerable to Parliament or its oversight committees”. Attorney-at-Law Jagath Liyanaarachchi of Transparency International Sri Lanka that was also at the helm with other civil societies to bring the RTA to Parliament admits, “RTA couldn’t be used to obtain information in respect of operations undertaken by the OMP.”
“The OMP is to comprise seven members appointed by the Constitutional Council. According to section 11(a), they will largely be guided by agreements with various persons and organizations to carry out tasks pertaining to OMP. The OMP can have various units and divisions headed by persons not appointed by the Public Service Commission.

Pro-LTTE organizations

“However, there’s no provision in the Bill to say that they have to be Sri Lankans. OMP may even delegate their powers to pro-LTTE organizations. They in turn may exercise the OMP powers and enter military and intelligence establishments and access their documents and objects. It’s entirely possible because it’s said OMP can send a “specified person” to conduct searches. However, there’s no interpretation given to who this “specified person” might be. But according to the Bill, the OMP officers may enter any premises at any given time, which will seriously strain national security.”
Chandraprema notes, “the so-called ‘civil society’ representatives on the CC are either representatives of NGOs or are close to the ruling parties. It’s not difficult to imagine what kind of people the CC would appoint to the OMP.”
Counsel de Silva agrees, “Seven out of the ten CC members are representatives of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. They are all working to a certain agenda. When they were introducing the latest amendments to the Constitution, they were looking at the present leaders.
National government
“They were planning from the beginning to have a National Government, in which to appoint Sampanthan as the Opposition Leader. So, they took the President’s powers who was elected from all districts and empowered Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sampanthan, who together only represent two districts. That’s why we have a chronic situation today, where Sampanthan becomes the Opposition Leader, even though his alliance got far less seats than the Joint Opposition. Otherwise, normally the government would be represented by the two major parties.

“Funnily, according to the Bill, findings of the OMP won’t have any civil or criminal liability. Then, why have all these investigations? What are they then planning to do with their findings?”

“When we co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution,” he explains to Chandraprema, “we actually accepted UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report requesting other nations to try Sri Lankans suspected of war crimes under universal jurisdiction. OMP officers can seize documents and other evidence from military installations. However, there’s no way to confirm or verify that the evidence is actually from these installations. So, they can even introduce bogus evidence. As the evidence produced by a body established by an Act of Parliament, there’ll be no way we can distance from it.”

Universal jurisdiction

“They may however circulate their findings to the UN and elsewhere,” warns Counsel de Silva. “If they think that a crime has been committed, they can report it to a “relevant authority” which again is unspecified. Also the Bill doesn’t specify that the findings should be presented to a court of law. My view is that because we have agreed to a universal jurisdiction, they’ll collect the necessary information to prosecute abroad. Then, there’s no need for a Hybrid Court.”

This opinion must be considered alongside the PM’s recent move to obtain a ruling from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to overrule a Supreme Court judgment. In 2006, the SC in the landmark judgment, Nallaratnam Singarasa v Attorney General, ruled that Sri Lanka’s accession to Optional Protocol I of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ICCPR )needed two third majority in Parliament and a referendum in order to become a law.
This is an interesting case. In 1980 Sri Lanka had acceded to the ICCPR. In 1997 to the Optional Protocol I of the ICCPR which allows Sri Lankans to address appeals to the Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

UN intervention

Singarasa was convicted by the Sri Lankan Judiciary on five counts of an attack or attempted attacks on Army camps in the Northern Province to overthrow the democratically elected government. After exhausting the local judiciary options, he sought the UN intervention in terms of the ICCPR and the Optional Protocol.

However, SC ruled that even though the executive arm had signed the ICCPR and the Optional Protocol, the provisions of the latter had not been incorporated into law by Parliament. As it impacts on one of the Constitution’s entrenched provisions, it requires both a two third majority in Parliament and approval by people at a referendum for it to become a law in the country.
Thus, as a sovereign country, we are not beholden to uphold any ruling by a judicial power that does not come under the Constitution. It is this judgment that PM finds “a perverted interpretation of the Constitution”.
As long as the judgment holds rulings by any other judiciary that does not come under the Constitution has no effect on Sri Lankan citizens.

Kangaroo courts

Chandraprema notes, “All international war crime tribunals set up at various times have been Kangaroo Courts with witnesses giving testimony that’s used without proper verification. Almost all such international tribunals have had ‘syndicates of informers’, where witnesses are coached and taught how to tell convincing stories without contradicting one another.”
“According to section 12,” elaborates Counsel de Silva, “OMP can receive statements from the allegedly missing person’s relatives or any other person or organization. Even Rev. Father Emmanuel’s organization may make a complaint or statement. If anyone makes a false complaint, under our law, there’ll be consequences. But for those living abroad, there’ll be no consequences if false statements are made.”

Disappearance

Thayaparajah is worth mentioning at this point. He was the director of a US funded institute that provided Information Technology education, The Vanni Institute of Technology, (Vanni Tech). He worked closely with the LTTE, including Charles Anthony.
In 2009, second week of September, he disappeared. His disappearance was promptly blamed on the military intelligence. TamilNet reported that the then US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake had also inquired into the matter. Department Head of Politics and Public Administration, Madras University claimed that Thayaparajah’s wife along with close relatives had even identified the body and after the government cremated it, accepted the ashes. This same story was repeated by the University Teachers for Human Rights. Then, in early May 2014 he and nine others were arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police for illegally entering the country. His wife and three children were among the group.

Interestingly, there had been a concentrated effort in the recent past to indicate that Pottu Amman survived the war and is living safely in India. Even Prabhakaran’s death was denied. Relatives of the woman, the Indian investigators suspect to have assassinated Rajiv Gandhi insist she died on the battleground. If that is true, the true identity of the real bomber is indeed missing.
“Funny, how they insist the dead ones are alive and living ones dead,” observes Ferdinando, who for the last 29 years had been reporting on national security.

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4 Responses to “Bill to set up OMP A draconian law”

  1. plumblossom Says:

    Mangala must be replaced by a patriotic foreign minister. Actually Ranil, Sirisena, CBK traitors must be replaced too. However Mangala must be replaced as soon as possible. A country’s government should first and foremost look after the country’s security. sovereignty, territorial integrity and in the case of a small country such as Sri Lanka its unitary status. Mangala has betrayed Sri Lanka by accepting the UNHRC resolution which no country with any integrity will accept. Mangala must realise that those LTTE terrorists who massacred the citizens of this country for over 26 years simply because they wanted a large chunk of this island for themselves, illegally, that they should be dealt with in a very careful manner without betraying the security. sovereignty, territorial integrity and in the case of a small country such as Sri Lanka its unitary status, even if extremely powerful forces such as the US,UK, EU, Canada, Sweden, Norway and India are behind the LTTE terrorists. In addition, we must place forth the argument that those who settled in the island quite recently only during the past few hundred years i.e. the Sri Lankan Tamils who are only but 11.2% of the population do not have any rights whatsoever to demand over 28% of the land area, 66% of the coastline and 66% of the vast ocean resources which belong to Sri Lanka. This message should be conveyed to the TNA, the separatist terrorists and those who support them i.e. the US,UK, EU, Canada, Sweden, Norway and India as soon as possible so that they understand our position. This is the task of a foreign minister. Mangala therefore has betrayed Sri Lanka and must go. Sri Lanka cannot afford large self ruling entities which are illegal anyway since this island as a whole belong to all its people in total. It is the foreign minister’s task to covey this message to everyone concerned.

  2. plumblossom Says:

    The missing persons commission, the name is a misnomer. it should be called ‘those combatants on all sides who died in the war i.e. Sri Lankan Forces, Police Force. Civil Defence Forces, IPKF, Tamil Armed Groups against the LTTE and the LTTE terrorists themselves and whose bodies have not be found’. Therefore the name itself is wrong and invented by the UNHRC to tarnish the image of the armed forces of Sri Lanka.

    The missing persons commission to date has receive 24,000 complaints from 1983-2009 period. Of this number over 5,000 are regarding missing Sri Lankan Forces members, whereabouts unknown, almost certainly executed by the LTTE terrorists. Over 12,000 complaints are against the LTTE itself recruiting young persons by coercion. Therefore over 70% of complaints are against the LTTE itself which amounts to over 17,000 complaints. The rest of the complaints are I am sure about the whereabouts of LTTE combatants or terrorists who died while fighting but whose bodies have not been found.

    My question is, why cannot the UNHRC the US,UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India accept that Sri Lankan Forces, Police Force, Civil Defence Forces, IPKF, Tamil Armed Groups against the LTTE and the LTTE terrorists themselves died fighting in this war and leave it at that. What is the point in looking for these combatants now? Why is it that the UNHRC the US,UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India never ever talk about the over 35,000 Sri Lankan Forces, Police Force, civil Defence Force members who died in the war? or the 1,200 IPKF members or the over 2,000 Tamils Armed Groups against the LTTE members who died in the war? or the over 6,000-7,000 Sinhala civilians and even Muslims civilians who were massacred by the LTTE? or the around (my estimate) over 3,000 Tamil civilians massacred by the LTTE?

    Why is it that the UNHRC the US,UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India is not concerned about the over 10,000 Sri Lankan Forces members permanently disabled by the war, or the over 23,000 Sri Lankan Forces members both temporarily and permanently disabled by the war? or the over 136,000 Sri Lankan Forces members who were injured due to the war?

    Why is it that the UNHRC the US,UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India not concerned about the over 65,000 Sinhala people and over 75,000 muslims ethnically cleansed from the North?

    Why is it that the only the around 35,000 LTTE terrorists who died inclusive of Prabhakaran are the concern of the UNHRC the US,UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden and India? Perhaps this missing persons commission should answer that question first.

  3. plumblossom Says:

    Even if the constitution will be changed since this idiotic government follows whatever instructions the US, UK, EU, Norway, Canada, Sweden, India, the TNA and the separatist terrorists tell it to do, we must ensure that the unitary status of the country is not compromised in any way whatsoever. The clause in the 13th amendment which says that ‘the North and the East is the homeland of the Tamil speaking people’ must be deleted since it is totally false when looking at the history of the island. This clause must be replaced with the clause ‘the entire island is the homeland of all its peoples’. The provision which allows for the merger between two provinces should be deleted. As much subjects from the concurrent list should be included in the national list. Under no circumstances should land, police or fiscal powers be given to provincial councils. All of us need to ensure that the above happens since if the system reverts back to a parliamentary system and the presidential system is scrapped, the only way to ensure the unitary status of the country is the make sure that the provincial councils do not get any more powers than they have at present. The Public Security Ordinance should not be amended in anyway as well. If any provincial councils acts out of line, the head of government should dissolved such a provincial council and direct rule by the head of government should be enforced under those circumstances.

  4. plumblossom Says:

    I would please urge any person who has any influence whatsoever with Ranil, Mangala, Sirisena, CBK to let them know that these Western Countries i.e. the US,UK, EU, Canada, Sweden, Norway and India will only back off if Sri Lanka takes a very firm stance and refuses to carry out this unjust UNHRC resolution. Sri Lanka must do this without any fear since I am sure if Sri Lanka takes a very firm stance and refuses to carry out this unjust resolution the UNHRC, the US,UK, EU, Canada, Sweden, Norway and India will back off. I can guarantee that will happen. So it is up to Sri Lanka or rather Ranil, Mangala, Sirisena, CBK whether they are going to place our Sri Lankan armed forces in jeopardy for crimes they did not commit or whether they are going to defend the country’s armed forces and the country’s sovereignty, independence, freedom, integrity, unitary status etc. by refusing to carry out this unjust UNHRC resolution which no country on this planet earth with any integrity will carry out. However, if they keep complying with whatever unjust demands are made by the US,UK, EU, Canada, Sweden, Norway and India, they will have to keep complying with those unjust demands at the expense of Sri Lanka breaking up into pieces and placing the Sri Lankan people’s security in jeopardy. Sri Lanka will end up being partitioned too.

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