Govt. prepared for bilateral discussions on war crimes allegations with any country

Wednesday, 2 November 2011 02:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reiterates that it will not bow to investigation demands; hopes that LLRC report will reassure international community

By Uditha Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka will engage with any country bilaterally to discuss its human rights issues including war crimes allegations, but it will not allow an investigation by the Commonwealth, a top Minister said yesterday.

Addressing the media on the “unqualified success” of Sri Lanka’s participation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that concluded over the weekend in Australia, the External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris stated that the Government would never allow investigations by an outside party.

This was following attempts by the Canadian Foreign Minister to discuss war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka at CHOGM, which according to the Minister were vehemently disapproved by him and 15 other countries. However, he refused to reveal the names of these nations to the media.

Describing the experience as “humbling,” the Minister recalled that after he had voiced his protests, 15 representatives took that stand one after the other to voice their support for Sri Lanka. This made the proposal by Canada “dead in the water” ending any possibility of it being revived during CHOGM.

“An impression has been created that the international community is against Sri Lanka. This is clearly not the case. At CHOGM we clearly saw that about 90 per cent of the 54 nations that are part of the Commonwealth supporting us,” he said, adding that the delegation presented the “unvarnished truth” about war crimes allegations to moderate nations.

He admitted that there were several countries including the USA and Canada that continued to criticise Sri Lanka’s human rights track record, but assured that the Sri Lankan Government was prepared to have discussions with them as well.

Nonetheless, he insisted that promoting investigations into sovereign nations was outside the mandate and culture of the Commonwealth, which has a voluntary membership of nations. Steps to deny Sri Lanka the 2013 Summit never materialised, according to Prof. Peiris, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s invitation to CHOGM being warmly received by all members.

Referring to the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement that he may not attend the 2013 CHOGM conference in Sri Lanka, the Minister noted that “he never said that Canada will not attend. He simply said he would not attend.”

The Government is also confident that the release of the Lessons Learn and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report will boost international community confidence in human rights. “We expect to release the report to the public this month and we hope the international community will view it without preconceived prejudice.”

He remarked that the report would be released to the public after the commission presents it to President Rajapaksa.

The filing of a lawsuit against the President was highlighted by the Minister as an attempt to “silence” Sri Lanka and shut out its point of view regarding the ongoing allegations into war crimes. He thanked the Australian Government, in particular the Prime Minister, for supporting Sri Lanka and upholding the laws that gave Rajapaksa diplomatic immunity.