Mar 12, 2019

Relief measures, can't be deemed as justice - OMP Featured

The Office on Missing Persons (OMP) while welcoming the inclusion of its interim relief proposals in the 2019 Budget, said that it cannot be set off against ensuring justice for the loss of their loved ones.

Through the Budget 2019, the Government proposed the allocation of Rs. 500 million to provide Rs 6,000 monthly relief to support families of missing persons, including members of the armed forces and police identified as 'missing in action.'

However, the OMP stated that this allowance cannot be set off against ensuring justice for the families of the disappeared persons.
The OMP welcomes the Government's decision to provide families of the missing and disappeared preferential access to relevant 'Enterprise Sri Lanka' Loan Schemes in the 2019 Budget. The families are required to join the livelihood programs coordinated by the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR).

“Recognizing the economic hardships faced by families of the disappeared and missing, the OMP identified the importance of providing interim relief to the most vulnerable among these families as vital, until compensation and other forms of reparation are provided to address their complex needs and acknowledge the harms suffered. The OMP notes that the acceptance of relief measures cannot be regarded as a waiver of the right to adequate, prompt and effective reparations and to seek judicial remedies for accountability, and stands committed to fulfilling its mandate, the OMP Chairman Saliya Pieris said.”

The OMP in a statement said it is committed to assisting the implementation of this proposal and expanding the reach of this program to enable the thousands of families of the disappeared and missing to access this relief.

Following the submission of the Interim Report in August 2018, the OMP initiated follow up action on the recommendations on interim relief and justice, and will continue to engage with multiple state and government agencies to ensure their implementation.

The OMP stated that the connection between the monthly relief to the possession of a Certificate of Absence (COA) poses a challenge. The OMP has a legal responsibility to facilitate the provision of COAs and is in the process of devising methods to increase awareness and assist families to apply for COAs.

As proposed in the budget, this monthly relief will be provided to families who have obtained Certificates of Absence, until the Office for Reparations resolves their claims.

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Decision problematic

Recognizing the challenges that prevent families of the disappeared and missing from obtaining COAs, the OMP is currently engaged in efforts to address these challenges. Noting these challenges and the notes the small proportion that currently possess COAs, the OMP will collaborate with the Government to expand the relief to other families of the disappeared and missing through other modes of documentation and verification.

The OMP made a number of other recommendations relating to interim relief including debt relief, housing, education, vocational training and livelihood development and employment. One such recommendation is that the families of the missing and disappeared be included in financial aid programs and loan schemes such as 'Enterprise Sri Lanka' to help families achieve economic independence

The OMP stated that the families of the disappeared in the North and East have rejected the issuing of a certificate stating that their loved ones are ‘missing’ adding that what they want is nothing but justice for their missing loved ones.