Lanka Conflict Disappearance Figure Exaggerated: Panel Head

A Sri Lankan government-appointed panel, probing cases of missing persons during the country's civil war, today claimed that the numbers cited by groups on alleged disappearance of individuals have been grossly exaggerated.

"We have seen figures presented by various organisations which claimed that over 3,300 had disappeared from the northern province. But the number of complaints received by us does not confirm such claims," former Sri Lankan judge Maxwell Paranagama, who heads the panel, told reporters.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the 3-member panel headed by Paranagama in August last year to probe the cases of missing persons during the nearly three-decade long war with the LTTE following a recommendation by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

Paranagama was speaking after conducting a public session in the northeastern district of Mannar over the weekend.

"For example in Mannar 1,47,000 disappearances had been talked of. But our Commission received only 312 complaints of disappearances," he said.

"These claims are mere statements," he stressed.

The former Sri Lankan judge also dismissed claims that the Tamils affected by the conflict have little confidence in his probe proceedings.

"This has been proven wrong by the large numbers of people who have appeared before us," he said.

He said many complainants are parents who are unable to ascertain if their children are dead or not.

"We have received over 19,000 complaints, including 5,600 complaints from the parents of the members of the security forces," Paranagama said.

He said the rest of 13,000 complaints could also include those who had died in the conflict.

Paranagama also claimed that some of those reported as missing are living overseas.

"We have information that some of those reported as missing are living overseas. The foreign ministry wrote to the embassies asking for details of those living in their respective countries. But giving security reasons they have refused to give details," he said.

Sri Lanka faces an international probe over allegations that government forces killed about 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of fighting, a charge refuted by Colombo.

The UN human rights body since 2012 has passed three consecutive resolutions against Sri Lanka for rights accountability and to expedite reconciliation with Tamil minority.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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