Leader of the House and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday said that there were reports that a large number of persons believed to have gone missing during the war were living abroad under different names.
They had left the country through unconventional channels during the last phase of the conflict and immediately after that, the Minister told The Island.
“We have reports to prove that hundreds of persons said to have gone missing are in fact living abroad. Their names are on the lists of persons who allegedly disappeared. We have asked for information from the countries that harbour them as refugees and asylum seekers but not all the countries are liable to furnish us with their details. Only the countries that have entered into mutual agreements covering the particular subject with Sri Lanka could legally provide us with those details.
“We cannot demand such information. In the meantime the names of those who fled the country are on the lists of missing persons. Making use of those lists some anti-Sri Lankan forces including so-called non-profits working on human rights and related matters continue to raise that issue in international forums. But the truth is those said to have disappeared are now living in the very same countries.”
The Foreign Minister said that the government was strengthening relations with other nations as per the mandate given by the people. “We hope that we can convince the international bodies that these allegations against us are not true,” Minister Gunawardena said.
Gunawardena said that the government had already offered to give the families of the disappeared “Certificates of Absence” so that they could get some compensation. But this has been rejected by the families who insist that the government must investigate and tell them where their relations are and whether they are dead or alive.
Minister Gunawardena said that it was not possible to trace the missing and the government could not consider them dead and give the next of kin their death certificates. He said that there had been instances of persons reportedly missing from 1988, returning home in recent years. “What would have happened if we had issued their death certificates,” the minister queried.