Mannar mass grave : Results withheld till court gets hard copies of full report | Sunday Observer

Mannar mass grave : Results withheld till court gets hard copies of full report

24 February, 2019
The excavation was extended Northward and Northwestward early January
The excavation was extended Northward and Northwestward early January

The result of the sixth bone sample from the Mannar mass grave sent to Florida for radio carbon dating is due within a day and will be produced at the Mannar Magistrate’s Court this week, Chief Investigator of the Mannar mass grave site at the Lanka Sathosa premises and Consultant JMO Mannar, Dr. Saminda Rajapaksha told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

However, the results will not be made public until the court receives the hard copies of the full report with the results of all six bone samples sent for radio-carbon dating to the Beta Analytic Laboratory in Florida, USA.

The e-report of the results of five samples was produced before the Mannar Magistrate’s Court at the hearing on Wednesday.

The team and officials of the Office on Missing Persons (OMP), who sponsored the radio-carbon dating tests had decided to get the final reports couriered from the laboratory. The team had recalled the remaining six samples sent for testing, along with the results.

“The copy of the report will be couriered directly to the Mannar Court, along with the remaining bone samples, and the original report would come to me. This is to maintain its integrity,” Dr Rajapakse said. The reports are expected in two weeks.

Though the radio-carbon dating results play a significant role in determining the future activities at the site, it would not be the only criterion. The team together with the Mannar Magistrate would consider its findings, analysis and reports in the investigation and the results of the tests.

“The bone and other samples were sent for analysis to institutions, such as the Government Analyst’s Department and the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA). We are waiting for the results from some institutions and had requested them for speedy reports. The findings of the forensic and archaeological investigation team, would also be considered in the deliberation,” he said.

The Chief Investigator also said that they are getting ready for two scenarios, the site being one of archaeological importance and that of criminal investigation. If it is deemed to be one of archaeological importance, yet they cannot conclude the investigations in an ad-hoc manner. There are many skeletons excavated halfway and exposed to the elements. The team will have to secure them along with archaeological experts. However, the responsibility will lie with the Department of Archaeology, he said.

In the event the site is to be one for criminal investigations, “We would not stop until all the boundaries are demarcated,” he said.

The team had held discussions with the Mannar Magistrate about the steps to be taken in this regard.

“We may have to extend it beyond the present parameters. It may affect the surrounding buildings and the roadside. Perhaps, we may need to get the support of the Attorney General. We have discussed the legal aspects of all these,” he said.

OMP Chairman Saliya Pieris told the Sunday Observer that they would support the excavation as long as it was connected to the OMP mandate to trace the fate of the missing persons. “The Mannar Magistrate decided to await the results of the sixth sample and the hard copies.

As long as the Magistrate decides to continue with the excavation and it is connected to our mandate, we will support it,” he said.

Earlier, the OMP had expressed its willingness to look into matching the DNA of the bones with the DNA samples from the families of the missing persons.

The OMP started facilitating the logistics of the forensic investigation from early August, 2018 and supported the sampling and carbon dating tests.

As of Friday, February 22, 323 skeletons had been identified and 314, including 28 paediatric skeletal remains were taken from the mass grave at the Sathosa premises at the Grand Bazaar, Mannar. The largest of the mass graves found in the country was reported to the Police in March 2018, while the excavations began on May 28.

With tens of thousands of people reported missing during two insurgencies and a 26-year war against terrorism, many mass grave sites had been found in the Northern and the Southern parts of the country, including Embilipitiya, Matale, Jaffna and another location in Mannar.

However, in the past, almost all investigations had led to disappointment as the final reports were suspected to have been compromised and questionable.

The investigators at the mass grave site at the Sathosa premises were determined to ensure authenticity and the integrity of the investigation. The excavation and sampling were also opened to independent observers, such as the OMP and representatives of the organisations of the relatives of missing persons in the district.