OMP to accompany Mannar mass grave bones to US | Sunday Observer

OMP to accompany Mannar mass grave bones to US

The Office of Missing Persons will accompany bone samples drawn from Sri Lanka’s largest ever mass grave to Florida, USA for carbon dating later this month, the Sunday Observer learns.

The bones for testing will be hand carried by the Chief Investigator and Mannar District Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) Dr Saminda Rajapaksha who has been in charge of the excavation since the first bones were discovered under the Mannar town CWE in March 25 2018.

Dr Rajapaksa will transport the bones to the Beta Analytic Radio Carbon Dating Lab, for carbon dating on January 23. The bone samples from the site had been secured by end of December, 2018 the Sunday Observer reliably learns. “Preparations are under way for the bone samples collected for carbon dating to be flown to the Beta Analytic Radio Carbon Dating Lab in Florida, USA. I would be in charge of the bones and the only person handling the bones. However, to ensure the transparency of the procedure officials from the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and a few other official may join me,” said the Chief Investigator and Mannar District Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) Dr. Saminda Rajapaksha.

He added that he would be the responsible for the bone samples, from the time they are taken out from their secure storage at the Mannar Magistrate Office, till the moment it is delivered securely at the laboratory in Florida, USA. The samples would be taken to Colombo under police protection and transferred to the Bandaranaike International Airport under Sri Lanka Air Force guard. The team is scheduled to reach Florida and deliver the samples to the carbon dating laboratory on January 25, and they would return on the same day, said Dr. Rajapaksha.

The laboratory had sent guidelines on the proper scientific collection of samples for carbon dating preventing contamination, which his team had followed strictly, the JMO said. Six samples had been collected for carbon dating.

According to Rajapaksha, it would take about two weeks to get the results of a carbon dating test.

The bone samples to measure the absolute age of the bones, through carbon dating at Beta Analytic, Florida on December 18, 2018. The investigation team had selected a representation of the areas, levels and horizontal position of the bones when sending the samples for carbon dating, said the Chief Investigator. Earlier the excavation team identified three main levels at the site and bones representing these levels would be included in the samples.

Chairman of OMP, Saliya Peiris (PC), agreed that an official representative from OMP would join Chief Investigator Dr. Rajapaksha in securely transferring bone samples to the Florida lab. “The objective is to support JMO Dr. Rajapaksha to protect the chain of custody which continued through the excavation process. The OMP would continue to financially support the investigation, in the same way it had during the past few months. We would bear all the travel costs for delivering the bone samples to the lab,” said Peiris.

The excavation of the mass grave at the Mannar CWE premises is conducted by a team comprising Consultant JMOs including the Chief Investigator Dr. Rajapaksha; Archaeologists led by Prof. Raj Somadeva; official from the Government Analyst’s Department; Police and the Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO). However, to make the procedure more transparent one representative from each civil organisations involved in the investigation of missing persons, a representative of the OMP participated as observers with the permission of the Mannar Magistrate.

The excavation began on May 28, 2018 with no end in sight so far. By January 11, 2019, the 129th day of the investigation 300 skeletons were identified and 295 been excavated. According to the Chief Investigator, the team will continue excavations until they reach a bone free margin. The Mannar Magistrate visits the site each work day the excavation continues. Recently after discussions with and approval by the Magistrate, it was decided to enlarge the excavation area. Accordingly, it was expanded northward and westward towards the main road and the adjoining by-road. 

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