By Uditha Jayasinghe
As the Mattala festivities unfolded, Opposition coalition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe attempted to bring the spotlight back to the impending UNHRC vote and reiterated his call for an open dialogue with the Government to protect the country’s international image.
Flanked by his fellow members of the Vipakshaye Virodhaya, Wickremesinghe insisted that the “country cannot be sent to hell for the sins of the Government”. Calling for the country to be decoupled from the Rajapaksa regime, he pointed out that the country was on the brink of being internationally shamed once again when the UNHRC vote takes place this Friday.
He also stressed that if the resolution was passed, the country could be opened to investigations by UN rapporteurs and urged the Government to work with the Vipakshaye Virodhaya as well as Tamil and Muslim parties to put together a timeline and implementation framework for crucial points outlined in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report.
“It was the Government that appointed the LLRC under the advisement of President Rajapaksa. They came out with these recommendations that were subsequently accepted by the international community. Therefore, why are they so reluctant to implement them?” he questioned.
Wickremesinghe charged that the Government had not sought the views of the Opposition when formulating the Action Plan for the implementation of the LLRC and therefore the whole process lacked credibility. He emphasised that it was still not too late for all parties to meet before 31 May to hammer out the specifications for the timeline and implementation mechanism before the UNHRC acted.
“Even after the first resolution was passed, the Government was given one year by the international community, but it failed to implement the LLRC satisfactorily. Now there are pro-LTTE groups in Europe that are lobbying for various boycotts. Some are trying to discourage tourists, others are saying not to consume Ceylon Tea, and still others are attempting to stop consumption of Lankan-produced apparel. If this situation is not addressed Sri Lanka’s economy could be seriously affected,” he added.
Responding to a remark by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa who had dismissed calls for talks and instead expressed confidence in mass street demonstrations to keep the international community at bay, Wickremesinghe noted that “there is no one else for the Government to blame. They might as well have protest marches in front of a mirror if they want to honestly target those responsible for bringing the country to such a desperate point.”
He went on to say: “If the regime does not help the country, then we are forced to tell the world that this is the fault of the Government and not the country.”
All other leaders of the Vipakshaye Virodhaya also spoke subsequently, with many of them condemning the attacks on Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu and urging the Government to act by addressing internal human rights issues.