COI Rejects Allegations
By Camelia Nathaniel
The CPA had questioned whether the Commission is able to conduct investigations into its now expanded mandate, when such errors take place.
However speaking to The Sunday Leader, the Chairman of the Commission, Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama, said the Commission was working with the available resources.
“My translator is a retired parliament translator and the other person is from the Legal Aid Commission, and both of them were translating. Of course they might have missed certain words but I don’t think that would make such a huge impact. These translators work from morning till evening and even if there are a few errors, these could be corrected and these are not matters to make such a big issue about. We are so transparent and as these parties cannot find any other mistake or shortcoming, they now have brought up the minor issues in the translators,” he said.
Paranagama further added that while the Commission had requested that a separate panel be appointed to further investigate the disappearances, they were awaiting final approval. “Even if a police officer or an army officer were to be appointed, these parties will not be happy. That is why we have suggested that a retired judge be appointed to head the investigation team. Further we must also appoint persons who have experience in investigating such cases,” Paranagama added.
Regarding Witness and Victim Protection, the CPA has been continuously called for credible witness and victim protection mechanisms for the safety of those who appear before the Commission. However, the CPA pointed out that at the Commission sittings on September 29 held at the Pooneryn Divisional Secretariat, some individuals identifying themselves as military intelligence had attended the sittings and had photographed persons waiting to give testimony to the Commission.
However, Paranagama dismissed these allegations and said there were army officers engaged in routine patrolling on motorcycles, and having seen a large gathering of people, they had approached to inquire as to what was going on. “These officers had not come through the gate. Our secretary had then told them that the sittings were in progress and they had then gone off. However, I am not certain about the allegations that some intelligence officers had been taking photographs of the people who had come to give evidence,” he said.
Paranagama further said that the primary goal of the Commission was to get the people whose loved ones had disappeared, and try to find answers to give these families. “Although the CPA had made these allegations, so far no one has complained to us that they were intimidated or threatened by the security forces in any way.
In fact, many of the people who came to make submissions told us that it was the army that had encouraged them to come to the Commission and give their statements regarding the loss of their loved ones. So how can the CPA charge that there was no freedom and that people are being intimidated? They just want to find fault with everything that is done and undermine the government’s efforts,” Paranagama lamented.