Govt. urges UN to ensure fundamental principles to objectivity and fairness
Thursday, 6 November 2014 00:05
The Government has expressed shock over the recent conduct of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The Governmentâ€™s reaction was on account of the OHCHR Spokesperson, in response to a question raised by a Sri Lankan newspaper, had on 2 November stated that while officially the deadline for submissions was 30 October, which will not be extended, since they are aware that some material may take time to arrive, late submissions would not necessarily be refused.
Such a position was revealed unofficially soon after the request from Ananthi Sasitharan, a member of the Northern Provincial Council, addressed to the three experts of the OISL, for an extension of the period for submissions.
In that context, the Government whilst noting that was perfectly acceptable to extend a deadline openly, to do so in a clandestine manner, so as to benefit selectively a group of persons expressing a particular point of view, was unacceptable and expressed shock at the unprofessional conduct demonstrated by these developments.
The matter was taken up and the Governmentâ€™s position was explained when Minister of External Affairs, Professor G. L. Peiris on Tuesday (4) met the Heads of Mission and Representatives of the main proponents of the Investigation on Sri Lanka by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the High Commissioner of Australia. The Deputy Country Director of the UNDP also participated representing the UN system.
Following is the statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry:
Minister Peiris explained to these representatives, the details regarding the recent arrest of Sinnathamby Krishnarasa, a non-rehabilitated LTTE cadre. This action led to the discovery in his possession of blank forms containing signatures of persons affected by the conflict.Â The Minister revealed how questioning Krishnarasa had led to the disclosure that he had been employed by Alva Pulle Vijendrakumar alias Sun Master, a close associate of the TNA, to obtain signatures of those affected by the conflict on blank forms on the assurance that this exercise was for obtaining monetary compensation from the UN. He had also received instructions from Sun Master to collect death certificates and National Identity Card details of persons who had lost their lives during the last phase of the conflict and personal data of war widows and photographs of disabled persons. Minister Peiris explained that Krishnarasa had revealed that the forms with signatures were to be completed with fabricated â€śeye witnessâ€ť reports to be submitted to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL). He observed that these revelations point to several others having been employed and tasked with the collection of similar information to be presented to the OISL, particularly as Krishnarasa was in possession of a diary containing details of 400 persons who were missing, had died or been injured.
The External Affairs Minister expressed concern that there is evidence which indicates association between prominent personalities of the Tamil National Alliance and Sun Master. Further, he said that there are moves by Sun Master to seek asylum abroad. Investigations in this connection are continuing. The Minister observed that although the TNA, in a statement, has denied that Vijendrakumar alias Sun Master is a TNA official, his prominent role in the activities of that political party is apparent from evidence including photographs taken at public functions and on other public occasions.
There is, moreover, clear evidence of a very large number of telephone communications between Krishnarasa and Sun Master during the last two months. These conversations have taken place on an almost daily basis; Sun Master telephoned Krishnarasa even while the latter was being interrogated.
The discoveries that resulted from Krishnarasaâ€™s arrest, the Minister emphasised, reveal the manner in which interested parties are manipulating the OHCHR Investigation to deceive those affected by the conflict through luring them with false promises of compensation, and by taking advantage of their suffering to present distorted evidence to the OISL. Minister Peiris elaborated on a series of concerns pertaining to the questionable process of the OISL and matters relating to its integrity and transparency. He stated that on 1 August 2014, the OISL had made a formal public announcement, including on its website, that submissions by individuals, organisations and governments must be made by midnight Geneva time on 30 October 2014 and had given explicit reasons for the imposition of such a deadline. However, to his surprise, on 2 November 2014, the OHCHR Spokesperson, in response to a question raised by a Sri Lankan newspaper, had stated that while officially, the deadline for submissions was 30th October, which will not be extended, since they are aware that some material may take time to arrive, late submissions would not necessarily be refused.
He commented that it is interesting to note that such a position was revealed unofficially soon after the request from Ananthi Sasitharan, a member of the Northern Provincial Council, addressed to the three experts of the OISL, for an extension of the period for submissions. While stating that it is perfectly acceptable to extend a deadline openly, to do so in a clandestine manner, so as to benefit selectively a group of persons expressing a particular point of view, the Minister stressed, is unacceptable and expressed shock at the unprofessional conduct demonstrated by these developments.
Minister Peiris further explained that although the Programme Budget Implications of the Resolution 25/1 make provision for staff of the OISL to travel to Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and North America to access alleged victims and witnesses living outside the country, the OISL has not revealed details of dates and venues where such hearings are to take place.Â The Minister disclosed that the OHCHR has indicated that such information is confidential and regretted that this process is shrouded in impenetrable secrecy. The failure to share such information makes it evident that the investigation is not freely accessible to the public, he said. The Minister added that the impression created by such action is that the OISL will make arrangements to only interact with persons of their choosing which will provide them access to information of the nature that they wish to receive. External Affairs Minister Peiris expressed strong displeasure at the selective and biased approach followed where the investigation determines the nature of the information they wish to receive, for a specific outcome. Prof. Peiris stressed that this flawed procedure infringes on the basic norms of justice and fair play. He said that though Sri Lanka has rejected the UNHRC Resolution establishing an international investigation, it was only reasonable for the international community to expect, as the minimum requirement, that the investigation would follow certain fundamental principles relating to objectivity and fairness.
Professor Peiris observed, in conclusion, that the Government of Sri Lanka will do everything in its power to protect the national interest in this situation.