The Sri Lankan parliament has passed a law to pay compensation to the victims of the 30-year-long separatist war between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE, nearly a decade after the end of the conflict that claimed at least 100,000 lives.
The Office for Reparations Bill was passed on Wednesday with a 59-43 vote and it will benefit survivors and victims of the kin in several armed uprisings in the country, officials said.
The long-delayed legislation had been a key demand of the international observers urging reconciliation in the ethnically divided nation.
Former president Mahinda Rajapakse's supporters voted against the bill arguing that the bill would benefit separatist Tamil rebels crushed in the military campaign.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which led the separatist war for a separate Tamil homeland for three decades in the island nation, was finally crushed by the Lankan military in 2009 with the death of its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Since his election in 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena has faced international criticism for not taking any step towards the reconciliation process. The United Nations Human Rights Council had also pressed the Sirisena administration to take urgent steps towards addressing the war-era abuses.
Finally in March, the government established an office to trace the tens of thousands missing since the end of the civil war.
"We have had a long history of conflict not only in the north, but also in the south...people had disappeared (during the conflict)...it is also necessary to find out what happened to them and give reparations to the affected people," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said during the parliamentary debate.
According to official figures, around 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts, including the separatist war, in the north and east of the island nation.
R Sampanthan, the Leader of the Opposition, said, "The ascertainment of the truth, delivery of justice, the issue of accountability, reparations and non-recurrence are all fundamental components of the transitional justice mechanism."
"Financial reparation must be given to the people who need to be economically empowered," Sampathan, who is also the leader of the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance, said.
The pro-Sinhala majority nationalist Joint Opposition argued that the bill would benefit the LTTE who ran an armed separatist campaign for over 30 years.
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