Colombo, Jan 25 (IANS): Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said necessary investigations would be conducted before death certificates were issued for thousands of people who disappeared during the country’s decades-long civil war.
Issuing a statement to clarify media reports where Rajapaksa had acknowledged that over 20,000 missing persons were dead, his Office said the crucial detail that necessary investigations would be conducted before a death certificate would be issued had been wittingly or unwittingly omitted, the Colombo Page said on Saturday.
Furthermore, neither President Rajapaksa nor the UN Resident Coordinator Hanna Singer discussed a specific number, the President’s Office said in a statement.
The subject was discussed in very general terms.
“Most unfortunately, these news items are carrying a misquotation to the effect that President Rajapaksa as having ‘acknowledged’ that over 20,000 disappeared are dead. For the record, he did not make any such acknowledgement and nor did he make a reference to a number as missing or dead,” the Office added.
The meeting between President Rajapaksa and Singer on January 17 was in itself a general discussion that touched on a number of topics, according to the statement.
Addressing the issue of missing persons was discussed as a response to a query by Singer.
She inquired the administration’s priorities for promoting peace in Sri Lanka. In response, Rajapaksa outlined his plans to develop the economy, recruit people from the area into the police force and address the issue of the missing persons, the statement added.
President Rajapaksa observed that because bodies have not been recovered, families do not know the fate of those who had disappeared.
However, most of these families attest that those disappeared had been recruited or forcibly conscripted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Therefore, after the necessary investigations, steps would be taken to issue a death certificate and the necessary support for the families to rebuild their lives, Colombo Page quoted the statement as saying.
The fighting killed an estimated 100,000 people and left about 20,000, mostly Tamils, missing, the BBC said in a report earlier this week.
Enforced disappearances continued in the years after the war as businessmen, journalists and activists seen as opponents of Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda, who was then President, were rounded up and never seen again.
But, the Rajapaksa government denied any role in the disappearances.
Earlier this year, Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the BBC that war crimes allegations against him were “baseless”.