Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday named a committee to investigate a mass grave found in the central district of Matale last year, dating back to late 1980s.

"President has made a decision to appoint a special commission," Presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said. "This would be in addition to the on going police investigations," Samaranayake added.

He said the full details of the commission would be announced within the next few days. Some 154 skeletal remains were found at the grave that surfaced while digging was going on to construct a new building for a hospital in Matale town. Forensic experts last week confirmed that the grave discovered could not be older than 1986 and not newer than 1990, and placed it within a period when the then-government led a crackdown on leftist rebels.

Two reports were filed at the Matale magistrate's court last week, following tests done at the grave by archaeologists and judicial medical officers, which said that the grave dates back to 1986-1990. The Marxist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, had said their members who were tortured and extra-judicially executed had been buried at the site and have pressed for a thorough investigation.

The JVP accused the government of trying to cover up the human rights abuses by the then United National Party (UNP) government. The UNP is the main opposition party now. However, some of its members who were responsible for the mass grave are currently members of the Rajapaksa government, the JVP alleged.

The authorities initially said it was a burial site for those who died at an adjoining hospital during World War II. However, the forensic report last week drew fresh attention to the site. Thousands of people disappeared during the JVP-led uprising in the late 1980s.


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