United Nations Working Group of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Postpons visit

MissingA 10-day visit by the United Nations Working Group of Enforced or Involu-ntary Disappe-arances (WGEID) scheduled to begin on Monday (Aug.3) has been cancelled due to August 17 parliamentary polls.

 Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Kolonne yesterday told The Island that new dates would be decided after the election. Ms Kolonne said:

“The WGEID has visited Sri Lanka several times in the past as well and the decision to invite them to visit Sri Lanka once again was taken by the previous government. The dates for the visit, however, we’re not decided at that time and were decided after the January 8 presidential election.  The WGEID will not be able to visit at a time when an election campaign is underway in view of programming difficulties such as securing meetings with relevant ministers etc. The dates will be decided after the election.”

 The WGEID confirmed during the second week of May this year the August visit. The five member delegation also confirmed visits to Peru (1 – 10 June 2015), Turkey (16 – 20 November 2015).

 UPFA sources told The Island that the WGEID visit was meant to pave the way for a better understanding of the situation here ahead of the next session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in September. Sources said that the missing persons issue had been exploited by the LTTE rump, a section of the Tamil Diaspora as well as those engaged in the lucrative human smuggling operations at the expense of Sri Lanka.

 Responding to a query, sources pointed out that the WGEID set up in 1980 by the UNHRC’s predecessor; the UN Commission on Human Rights could help Sri Lanka to determine the fate and whereabouts of disappeared persons living overseas under new identities assumed courtesy foreign governments.

 The Presidential Commission Investigating Cases of Missing Persons yesterday said that on-going investigations had been seriously hampered by foreign governments’ refusal to reveal those Sri Lankans who received citizenship. Retired High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama, who heads the investigation, acknowledged that the Commission was in a dilemma, though nothing could be done about it. Paranagama said that a sizeable number of persons categorized as missing during the war and post-war period were living overseas after clandestinely fleeing the country.

 Asked whether the Commission had been able to make headway in its local investigations, Paranagama said that a five-man team consisting of retired police officers was probing disappearances. The team operates under the supervision of another retired High Court judge.  “We have obtained lists containing names of over 14,000 persons admitted to hospitals in the northern region during the war. In addition to them, we also received lists pertaining to LTTE cadres held in prisons as well as rehabilitation camps. These lists will be examined by the five-man team.”

 Paranagama said that he couldn’t comment on cancellation of EGEID visit. However, the Presidential Commission appreciated assistance provided by any organization to help determine the whereabouts of the missing.

Former President Rajapaksa established the Paranagama Commission. Although some speculated that the Paranagama Commission would be scrapped by the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared his faith in investigations undertaken by the Commission as well as the international experts hired by the previous government.(The Island)

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