COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today signed the Office on Missing Persons Act, paving the way to set up an office to trace around 20,000 people still missing, eight years after the end of the nearly three-decade-long civil war.
A bill to establish the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) was introduced on May 22 and gazetted on May 27 last year.
On June 21, the bill, presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was passed unanimously in Parliament.
Sirisena said in a tweet: "I signed the Office of Missing Persons Act today. This marks another step forward in Sri Lanka's path to sustained peace".
The office will help several thousands of families of missing persons to discover the fate of their loved ones and to bring a closure for these families.
The OMP is mandated to search and trace missing persons, clarify the circumstances in which persons have gone missing and their fate, make recommendations towards addressing incidents of missing persons, protect the rights and interests of missing persons among other tasks.
The office was one of the accountability mechanisms resulting from the UN Human Rights Council resolutions passed against Sri Lanka over its rights accountability.
The opposition has slammed the move as a betrayal of the troops which crushed the LTTE's three-decade-long separatist campaign.
The government last week said the OMP will put to end the possibility of disappearances in the future and no one will be prosecuted for past action.
The government estimates around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the 30-year-long separatist war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which led the separatist war for a separate Tamil homeland, was finally crushed by the Lankan military in 2009 with the death LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.