( January 26, 2017, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian) “The Office of Missing Persons is presently only in name. It has no teeth. Even if it starts functioning in earnest the Panel of Inquirers cannot take effective steps against Military suspects. They need to forward their views to the Courts, consequently resulting in heavy delay,” NPC Chief Minister Justice C.V.Wigneswaran noted in his letter to the President on the families of enforced disappeared on hunger strike at Vavuniyaa.
Full text of the letter from NPC Chief Minister Justice C.V.Wigneswaran to the President Maithiripala Sirisena, follows
His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena
Fasting unto death at Vavuniya
Families of enforced disappeared on hunger strike at Vavuniyaa
You may be aware of the Fast undertaken by the relatives of those who are Missing and those Political Prisoners in incarceration opposite Vavuniya Police Station. For the third day they have not consumed any water let alone food. Many are quite old and are now looking extremely tired. Soon they would get dehydrated. Unless something is done immediately we may lose the valuable lives of some of the Satyagrahis.
May I be permitted to say that this is not the first time I had occasion to address letters of this nature to Your Excellency. On earlier occasions too I had written on behalf of fasting persons and Your Excellency was pleased to take steps in that regard though nothing concrete came about in the long run.
Sir! your Government came into power inter alia with the goodwill and franchise of our people. There were considerable expectation when Your Excellency was elected as President. Generally your Government opined that the PTA must be withdrawn, that Political Prisoners must be given an Amnesty, that immediate steps must be taken to inquire into the fate of Missing persons and so on.
The Office of Missing Persons is presently only in name. It has no teeth. Even if it starts functioning in earnest the Panel of Inquirers cannot take effective steps against Military suspects. They need to forward their views to the Courts, consequently resulting in heavy delay.
The fasting individuals are very weak and old. Anything could happen.
May I suggest as follows –
That your Excellency direct a Senior Minister to go over to Vavuniya and give the Satyagrahis some assurance.
A time frame be given for proper steps to be taken with regard to those Missing and / or Disappeared to ascertain their whereabouts.
One of the fasting individuals, a female, is holding a picture with her daughter standing beside Your Excellency. At least her whereabouts could be immediately ascertained and she could be released to her mother.
Once the PTA is withdrawn automatically many political prisoners would have to be released. Therefore the withdrawal of the PTA must be undertaken immediately. After all the Government has given an assurance to the world at large that the PTA would be withdrawn.
Your Excellency would have come to know that at Keppapilavu lands other than those of the displaced were earmarked for release today by the Army. Steps need to be taken to allow those displaced to go back to their own lands.
I appeal to Your Excellency to kindly take immediate steps to wean away the fasting individuals from proceeding with their fast. Any delay would be to the detriment of all of us.
The tremendous expectations and hopes our people placed in Your Excellency seem to be eroding in recent times and Your Excellency must take note of their feelings not only for political reasons but also for ethnical and humanitarian reasons. I am sure Your Excellency will not let down our people.