KILINOCHCHI: The Sri Lankan human rights watchdog, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), has accused the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons of being biased, with its members trying to get statements from victims which would shore up the image of government presently accused of having committed “war crimes”.
“The commissioners posed leading questions to those providing testimony. This implies bias and could lead to influencing testimony and subsequent findings,” the CPA said in a statement after attending the commission’s sittings in Kilinochchi from September 27 to 30.
Express found that the line of questioning of the Chairman of the panel, Maxwell Paranagama, was designed to get the witnesses to say that it was the LTTE which had abducted their kin; fired the shells which caused death and destruction on a massive scale; and forcibly prevented people from seeking refuge in army lines.
While most witnesses did say that the initial abduction was done by the LTTE (mainly in cases from 2008 onwards), “disappearances” as such had occurred later, in the final days of the war, when there was heavy fighting and many persons had surrendered to the army or where taken in by the army for questioning. The panel appeared to be sidestepping this aspect, though Paranagama stressed the need for a proper probe.
The translator added to the bias by repeatedly questioning the witnesses on the same matter in a stentorian and authoritarian manner. Thrown off balance, many witnesses backed out from their earlier statements and said: “We don’t know”, to please the panel.
The CPA charged that at the hearing on September 29 at Pooneryn, persons identifying themselves as military intelligence attended the sittings and photographed persons waiting to give testimony. There were also several military personnel outside the venue, all of which could have intimidated the witnesses. “Lack of genuine steps at this juncture will severely undermine efforts to arrive at truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation in SL,” CPA warned.