21 July 2017

Operationalizing the OMP Act

On 20 July 2017, yesterday, President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted that he had “signed the Office of Missing Persons Gazette today.” The Foreign Minister also confirmed this position and stated that the next step was for the Constitutional Council to nominate members. The President’s announcement was met with expressions of congratulation and support. Notably, the Secretary General of the United Nations commended the government “for establishing the Office of Missing Persons...”

However, it appears to the best of our knowledge that the OMP Act does not have the force of law to date. The Gazette notification relating to the OMP signed yesterday by the President (Gazette Extraordinary No. 2028/45 published on 19 July 2017) only assigns the OMP and the OMP Act to the Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation. It is notable that the said Minister is in fact the President himself and that the constitutionality of his continuing to act as that Minister has been called into question.

Nevertheless, it appears that for the OMP to in fact be established, the President qua Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation would now have to specify a date on which the OMP Act would come into effect. Until such date, the OMP Act does not have the force of law in Sri Lanka and members to the OMP cannot be nominated or appointed. It is not clear when the President qua Minister intends to bring the OMP Act into operation. What is clear is that no such Gazette has been published on the government website.

Given the protracted delays in bringing the OMP Act into operation, it is incumbent on all stakeholders concerned to ensure that no further delay is countenanced.

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