The Sunday Leader

Suspicions Raised Over Postponement Of Enforced Disappearance Bill

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya 

Prasanna Ranatunga, Brito Fernando and Lakshman Kiriella

Suspicions were raised over the postponement of the Enforced Disappearance Bill which was to be debated in Parliament last week.

The government has stated that they are attentive to the Enforced Disappearance Bill and will bring up a dialog in this regard in the future. The government came under severe criticism for not having taken up for debate Enforced Disappearance Bill. However, Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella said the government will be taking up this topic for debate in parliament shortly.

In 2016, Parliament passed a bill to establish the “Office of Missing Persons”. While a laudable step, the government failed to consult with victims and civil society or address their concerns about the bill, including ambiguous provisions on whether evidence of responsibility for disappearance gathered by the Office would be submitted to prosecuting authorities, undermining public confidence in the initiative. The President has yet to sign the bill into law.

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has warned that foreign countries, especially those of the West, could arrest Sri Lankans for crimes allegedly committed in Sri Lanka, if Sri Lanka incorporates into its domestic law, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

When The Sunday Leader contacted the Secretary of the joint opposition Prasanna Ranatunge he said this Bill was unfavourable for the country and as such the joint opposition would continue to oppose it. He said that due to their opposition to the Act it was put on hold by the government, but it may resurface at any time and the joint opposition are always on the alert and in the event the government tries to bring it up again they would certain oppose it. He said his group would always oppose such unpatriotic moves.

President of the Families of the Missing Persons organisation, Brito Fernando said it was evident that the government shelved the implementation of the Bill over the opposition brought on by the Joint Opposition.

He said that according to unofficial sources they had learnt that the government was planning on making further amendments to the Enforced Disappearance Bill. He said it was clear to anyone that the government was trying to amend this Bill to please the joint opposition.

“What we have to ask Mahinda Rajapaksa is, where is the sound he had when the monks were killed by the Sinhalese people during the riots in 1989.” However, no matter who opposes the Bill, the government should have a back bone to stand up against these opposing factors and do the right thing,” he said.

The Enforced Disappearance Bill was scheduled to be taken up for debate in parliament on July 5th but somehow it was not included in the agenda.

However, when the speaker had inquired from the leader of the house Lakshman Kiriella if the Bill was to be taken up for debate he had said the draft Bill would not be taken up for debate. Instead he had said the debate on the salary revision of the Director General of the Bribery and Corruption Commission would be taken up for debate.

However, when the Joint Opposition group had questioned why the Enforced Disappearance Bill was not been taken up for debate, in response Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the salary revision of the Director General of the Bribery and Corruption Commission would be taken up for debate as decided at the Parliamentary group meeting and the debate on the Enforced Disappearance Bill would be taken up at a later date.

Meanwhile, the Chief Prelates had met in Kandy last week and discussed the possibility of war heroes who had sacrificed their very lives for the liberation of the country, being targeted and charged for alleged war crimes and had urged the government to postpone the implementation of the Enforced Disappearance Bill. But, the government is of the stand that it would be taken up in parliament at a later date.

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