No response to Channel 4 reports, decision on signing national anthem in Sinhala and Tamil on Independence Day yet to be decided
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Top officials of the Government are yet to decide whether the national anthem will be sung in Sinhala and Tamil at the Independence Day celebrations next week but are confident pledges made at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will be implemented.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will make the decision on the national anthem following discussions, Cabinet spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told reporters at the weekly briefing yesterday. The matter was raised at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday as a measure to increase reconciliation between the two groups. Several members of the Cabinet had objected to the move, acknowledged Dr. Senaratne but insisted the matter would be considered progressively by the president.
“The president also made a request to members to refrain from discussing the matter in public,” he added.
Customary Independence Day celebrations are to be held at Galle Face a day before United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein is expected to visit Sri Lanka in a high profile visit to review efforts made by the Government following its pledges at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva last September.
The Government’s reconciliation efforts had come under fire recently after President Sirisena told a BBC interview that international judges will not be part of the judicial inquiry. The Cabinet spokesman also declined to comment on the statements made by the latest Channel 4 programme on Sri Lanka, which criticises the Government for failing to reduce military presence in the North, complete resettlement and conduct credible investigations into thousands of missing cases.
Much publicity has also been given to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s interview to Channel 4 journalist Jon Snow saying the missing are “probably dead.”
“Banning international journalists from reporting in the North was a negative step taken by the previous Government that damaged the reputation of Sri Lanka very seriously. We will not take such draconian steps. The international community can come and see the steps that are being taken. We do not believe in responding to these reports,” Dr. Senaratne said regarding the Channel 4 programme.
The Government will remain committed to the pledges made at UNHRC and would use foreign expertise and funds as necessary. Dr. Senaratne rejected claims that the president and prime minister were making contradictory statements on future steps that would be taken by the Government.