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Govt’s shifting position on foreign judges not acceptable to Tamils: TNA

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 18 June 2016 00:00

SumanthiranTamil National Alliance (TNA) Member of Parliament M.A. Sumanthiran with the UN High Commissioner for Human Right Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein during their meeting this week

By Dharisha Bastians

The Government’s shifting position on foreign judges in an accountability mechanism to address grave violations of human rights is unacceptable to the Tamil people, Tamil National Alliance Legislator M.A. Sumanthiran told a US Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka this week.

He told US Lawmakers that the TNA would wait until the accountability mechanism, and the Special Prosecutor’s Office is being set up to insist that “every word and spirit” of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka adopted in September 2015, is complied with.

The TNA MP, who was in Washington DC earlier this week to brief the Caucus on Sri Lanka, said the Tamil people had felt initial euphoria about the change of regime in Sri Lanka which was now turning into ‘frustration and disappointment.’

“Our people feel very strongly that we brought about the change, we voted in full numbers to bring about a change, and that was done on certain promises which are yet to be realised,” Sumanthiran told US Congressional representatives engaging on Sri Lanka.

Sumanthiran urged the US that the “foot must not be taken off the pedal too early” saying that change had been seen as a result of “some pressure, some encouragement, some nudging” and that must continue. “Our plea to the US Government would be don’t express satisfaction too early as there is still a lot to do during that phase,” he said.

The TNA Lawmaker said the Government had so far not refused to include international involvement in the accountability process it has proposed. “All the multiple voices that you talk about say ‘international involvement – yes, but not judges’. Now I take great exception to that, because as I said at the beginning, the text of the 2015 Resolution is a negotiated text,” Sumanthiran said.

He said the TNA had asked for an international inquiry and finally settled for a hybrid model, and that was a settlement negotiated with the Government of Sri Lanka.

“And having compromised and settled to a model which in the Resolution doesn’t merely say hybrid but explains in detail judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and investigators, it obviously means judge qua judges, prosecutors qua prosecutors, so on and so forth. So it does not mean for judges to be advisors or judges to be involved in some other capacity,” he charged.

The Jaffna District MP said he had been personally involved in the negotiations on the 2015 resolution, with the United States of America also participating in the process.

“Having negotiated and compromised and agreed that there would be a hybrid tribunal to try these mass atrocities, it is not open for the Government now to shift its stance and say ‘well, international involvement yes, but it’s in a different form. No, that is not acceptable to us at all,” the TNA Legislator said.

Sumanthiran said he had spoken in Parliament about the issue several times, statements that the Government is yet to contest. “We have said it to the President when he called for an all party conference on the implementation on the UN resolution, and he has not contested us on that,” he explained.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US, Prasad Kariyawasam, who also addressed the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka the same day, responded that “nothing was off the table yet”.

Ambassador Kariyawasam said Sri Lanka had agreed to the participation of foreign experts and judges, and insisted that international participation was already happening in many areas.

Ambassador Kariyawasam insisted that the Government also remained committed to releasing civilian land held by the military in the North and East, even though he admitted the pace was slow. He said the Government was committed to deploying the military fairly across the country. But the military will be out of civilian life and civilian lands, he insisted.

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