“We have done the best we can”: Mahinda

Saturday, 1 March 2014 06:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Says there should be no resolution at all, describes UNHRC as David vs. Goliath battle
  • Denies attempt to play off China-India, no idea of India stance
  • Disappearances Comm. can make recommendations, no counter resolution
  • South African TRC probable non-starter
As the days tick down, President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said he is “uncomfortable” with the US-led resolution to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and believes there should be no resolution at all. The Sri Lankan Government faces a US-led resolution before the UNHRC next month for failing to implement adequate reconciliation measures and investigate allegations of war crimes. The resolution, which is the third consecutive one faced by the Government, insists Sri Lanka’s human rights record has failed to improve since the conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009. “We are uncomfortable with the resolution. There shouldn’t be a resolution at all,” he said during a meeting with foreign media in Colombo. “We have done the best that we can,” he insisted, elaborating on extensive infrastructure facilities costing an estimated US$ 4.5 billion, demining, rehabilitation of 13,000 former LTTE cadres and including former war zones in multiple elections as examples of progress. Rajapaksa reiterated human rights concerns are being addressed through home grown methods including kicking off internal investigations into allegations of war crimes along a special presidential commission to inquire into disappearances during the war. Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga pitched in with the progress of the commission so far, saying the sessions in Kilinochchi and Jaffna saw relatives giving evidence that 80% of abductions were conducted by the LTTE. “Most of these people told the Commission they wanted to move forward. Now this is a long-term process and the commission is empowered to make recommendations in their report to the President. This process is to throw light on grey areas where different numbers are quoted.” Many countries among the 47 member UNHRC do not “have the appetite for this disproportionate response. There is simply no justification for such action year after year… they realise it is unfair,” noted External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris at the meeting. Describing Sri Lanka’s endeavour as a “David vs. Goliath” battle, Rajapaksa nonetheless assured he would keep fighting the resolution. He also went on to say the resolution supported by mostly Western countries was motivated by the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora living in the US, Britain and Canada and the need of politicians to win votes by pleasing them. Sri Lanka has been lobbying extensively ahead of the UNHRC to drum up support but Rajapaksa refused to predict how many votes the country would get or what their reaction would be if an international investigation is approved. “Why speculate on speculation?” queried Prof. Peiris. He also noted that reports of a counter-resolution were “completely incorrect”. Presidential Coordinator for the Batticaloa District Arun Thambimuththu who accompanied the recent delegation to South Africa revealed the group had realised there were too many differences between the South African and Sri Lankan situation to make a Truth and Reconciliation Commission possible, hinting the option could be shelved. Rajapaksa was also upbeat about the support extended by China and denied he was attempting to play China off India. “Why should we do that? They are not babies,” he said in response to a query raised by foreign media during the meeting in Colombo, denying that the Sri Lankan Government was playing China and India off each other. “There is no exclusivity like that,” Sri Lanka External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris assured, adding, “all are neighbours”. Peiris met his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid last week and assured continued engagement with the subcontinent. The relationship between Sri Lanka and China has been upgraded to a “strategic partnership,” Prof. Peiris noted, and holistic discussions were held when he visited Beijing earlier this month. “Three statements were released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry very definitely saying Sri Lanka has the expertise to carry out its own domestic processes and this resolution by the international community is neither appropriate nor acceptable.” Prof. Peiris will make the main presentation from Sri Lanka once the UNHRC opens on 3 March.  

Japan likely to abstain from vote

Japan is likely to abstain from voting on the US sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Sources at the Japanese Embassy in Colombo said that the Japanese Government does not feel things are as serious as the US makes it to be on the Sri Lankan issue. The source said that if a vote is taken at the council on a US sponsored resolution then Japan will abstain from voting. (Colombo Gazette)

NPC asks Government to consider joint inquiry with international community

The National Peace Council (NPC) has called on the Government to consider a joint inquiry instead of an international inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights violations in the last phase of the country’s war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists. The Sri Lankan Government has rejected the report submitted by the UN Human Rights Commissioner that recommends an international inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights violations in the last phase of the war. NPC... Issuing a statement, the NPC said the Government continues to deny the allegations and asserts that it only carried out a humanitarian rescue operation during the last stages of the war due to the forcible holding of the civilian population by the LTTE and also asserts that the alleged number of persons who had died or disappeared as a gross exaggeration. “It sets up an inquiry but entrusted it to the military against whom the allegations are made, which does not make it an independent investigation. It is an accepted principle in law that no person can be a judge in their own cause,” the NPC states. The NPC pointed out that due to the deteriorating human rights situation and rule of law the international community has lost faith in Sri Lanka’s domestic probes. “The last resolution that was passed in the UNHRC called for an independent and credible domestic investigation. Sri Lanka possesses individuals who have held very high positions both internationally and nationally in human rights investigations, and who could be acceptable to all stakeholders. But with the erosion of the Rule of Law and the independence of the Judiciary with the 18th Amendment and impeachment of the Chief Justice, it is unlikely that the UN would accept a purely domestic investigation as a credible alternative at this time,” the Council noted. The Council expressed concern that the outcome of the confrontation that is taking place between the Sri Lankan government and those countries that seek to set up an international mechanism against Sri Lanka’s wishes will stir up hatred and antagonism against the ethnic and religious minorities, who have been the victims of the war, for allegedly supporting the UNHRC resolution against the country. The NPC has therefore called on the international community and the Sri Lankan Government to resolve their differences through a joint inquiry with a report back mechanism to the UN. “This could avoid the weaknesses of a previous joint effort to investigate human rights violations that led to the setting up of an Independent International Eminent Group of Persons to be observers. In addition, provision could be made for the inquiry to take place in a neutral country as well as in Sri Lanka so that those who make the allegations can be assured that they would not be penalised for giving evidence for or against the allegations,” the NPC pointed out.