MULANGAVIL: The Presidential Commission on Disappearances and War Crimes (DWC) has asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa to establish an Investigating Team to help it pursue cases of alleged involuntary disappearance in the country.
Talking to a group of news persons at a sitting of the commission in Mulangavil in North West Sri Lanka on Sunday, the panel chairman, Justice Maxwell Paranagama, said that the charge that persons had disappeared after they had surrendered to the army or after crossing army-held territory, needs to be investigated by a competent agency.
“I have put in a request for such a team to the President, but have not got a response so far,” Paranagama said.
Asked who might head the proposed the Investigating Team, he said that it would not be a police or army man but a retired judge so that no one can complain of a pro-state bias. The team would collect evidence and see if a case is fit for legal action. Giving an example of case in which investigation had been useful, he said that a proper probe in that case had revealed that the person who had allegedly disappeared was living in a refugee camp in Tamil Nadu.
Paranagama clarified that the recommendations of the commission and the investigating team are not binding, and it is the President’s prerogative to accept or reject a recommendation.
The commission has so far received more than 19,000 complaints of involuntary disappearance and has interviewed almost 1,300 affected families. It has had six sittings in the North Eastern Tamil-speaking districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Mullaitivu. It is now conducting four sittings in Kilinochchi district.
Paranagama asserted that his panel is not under any pressure from the government. Despite propaganda about bias, people are coming to place their grievances before it, and people are speaking freely, he said.